SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Desalination

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With more than a billion people lacking accessible drinking water, there is a critical need to convert nonpotable sources such as seawater to water suitable for human use. However, energy requirements of desalination plants account for half their operating costs, so alternative, lower energy approaches are equally critical. Membrane distillation (MD) has shown potential due to its low operating temperature and pressure requirements, but the requirement of heating the input water makes it energy intensive. Here, we demonstrate nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation (NESMD), where highly localized photothermal heating induced by solar illumination alone drives the distillation process, entirely eliminating the requirement of heating the input water. Unlike MD, NESMD can be scaled to larger systems and shows increased efficiencies with decreased input flow velocities. Along with its increased efficiency at higher ambient temperatures, these properties all point to NESMD as a promising solution for household- or community-scale desalination.

Concepts: Oxygen, Energy, Water, Temperature, Heat, Drinking water, Water supply, Desalination

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Water is vital for life, and plain water is a calorie-free option for hydration. Increasing consumption of drinking water is a strategy to reduce energy intake and lose or maintain weight; however, information on the characteristics of consumers who drink water is limited. Our objective was to describe the characteristics of people who have a low intake of drinking water and to determine associations between their behaviors and attitudes and their intake of water.

Concepts: Water, Drinking water, Desalination, Water crisis, Water supply network

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Tritium concentrations in Japanese precipitation samples collected after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP1) were measured. Values exceeding the pre-accident background were detected at three out of seven localities (Tsukuba, Kashiwa and Hongo) southwest of the FNPP1 at distances varying between 170 and 220km from the source. The highest tritium content was found in the first rainfall in Tsukuba after the accident; however concentrations were 500 times less than the regulatory limit for tritium in drinking water. Tritium concentrations decreased steadily and rapidly with time, becoming indistinguishable from the pre-accident values within five weeks. The atmospheric tritium activities in the vicinity of the FNPP1 during the earliest stage of the accident was estimated to be 1.5×10(3)Bq/m(3), which is potentially capable of producing rainwater exceeding the regulatory limit, but only in the immediate vicinity of the source.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Desalination, Sustainable energy, Tritium

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There is increasing evidence from ecological studies that lithium levels in drinking water are inversely associated with suicide mortality. Previous studies of this association were criticized for using inadequate statistical methods and neglecting socioeconomic confounders. This study evaluated the association between lithium levels in the public water supply and county-based suicide rates in Texas. A state-wide sample of 3123 lithium measurements in the public water supply was examined relative to suicide rates in 226 Texas counties. Linear and Poisson regression models were adjusted for socioeconomic factors in estimating the association. Lithium levels in the public water supply were negatively associated with suicide rates in most statistical analyses. The findings provide confirmatory evidence that higher lithium levels in the public drinking water are associated with lower suicide rates. This association needs clarification through examination of possible neurobiological effects of low natural lithium doses.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Epidemiology, Statistics, Sociology, Lithium, Poisson regression, Desalination, Water crisis

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Calcium sulfate minerals such as gypsum play important roles in natural and industrial processes, but their precipitation mechanisms remain largely unexplored. We used time-resolved sample quenching and high-resolution microscopy to demonstrate that gypsum forms via a three-stage process: (i) homogeneous precipitation of nanocrystalline hemihydrate bassanite below its predicted solubility, (ii) self-assembly of bassanite into elongated aggregates co-oriented along their c axis, and (iii) transformation into dihydrate gypsum. These findings indicate that a stable nanocrystalline precursor phase can form below its bulk solubility and that in the CaSO(4) system, the self-assembly of nanoparticles plays a crucial role. Understanding why bassanite forms prior to gypsum can lead to more efficient anti-scaling strategies for water desalination and may help to explain the persistence of CaSO(4) phases in regions of low water activity on Mars.

Concepts: Water, Solubility, Mineral, Sulfur, Sulfate, Desalination, Gypsum, Calcium sulfate

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We have previously reported the use of hydrogel particles as the draw agent for forward osmosis desalination. In the present work, the effects of draw agent, feed concentration and membrane on the process performance were systematically examined. Our results showed that the incorporation of carbon filler particles in polymer hydrogels led to enhanced swelling ratios of the draw agents and thus higher water fluxes in the FO process. The composite polymer hydrogel particles of sizes ranging from 100 μm to 200 μm as draw agents induced greater water fluxes in FO desalination as compared with those with larger particle sizes (500-700 μm). Similar to other types of draw solutes, as the salt concentration in the feed increased, the water flux created by the polymer hydrogel draw agent decreased; the use of a cellulose triacetate forward osmosis membrane resulted in higher water flux compared with the use of a polyamide composite reverse osmosis membrane.

Concepts: Water, Cellulose, Solution, Cellulose acetate, Osmosis, Desalination, Reverse osmosis, Cellulose triacetate

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The occurrence and intensity of harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been increasing globally during the past few decades. The impact of these events on seawater desalination facilities has become an important topic in recent years due to enhanced societal interest and reliance on this technology for augmenting world water supplies. A variety of harmful bloom-forming species of microalgae occur in southern California, as well as many other locations throughout the world, and several of these species are known to produce potent neurotoxins. These algal toxins can cause a myriad of human health issues, including death, when ingested via contaminated seafood. This study was designed to investigate the impact that algal toxin presence may have on both the intake and reverse osmosis (RO) desalination process; most importantly, whether or not the naturally occurring algal toxins can pass through the RO membrane and into the desalination product. Bench-scale RO experiments were conducted to explore the potential of extracellular algal toxins contaminating the RO product. Concentrations exceeding maximal values previously reported during natural blooms were used in the laboratory experiments, with treatments comprised of 50 μg/L of domoic acid (DA), 2 μg/L of saxitoxin (STX) and 20 μg/L of brevetoxin (PbTx). None of the algal toxins used in the bench-scale experiments were detectable in the desalinated product water. Monitoring for intracellular and extracellular concentrations of DA, STX, PbTx and okadaic acid (OA) within the intake and desalinated water from a pilot RO desalination plant in El Segundo, CA, was conducted from 2005 to 2009. During the five-year monitoring period, DA and STX were detected sporadically in the intake waters but never in the desalinated water. PbTx and OA were not detected in either the intake or desalinated water. The results of this study demonstrate the potential for HAB toxins to be inducted into coastal RO intake facilities, and the ability of typical RO operations to effectively remove these toxins.

Concepts: Algae, Water, Algal bloom, Desalination, Reverse osmosis, Domoic acid, Paralytic shellfish poisoning, Science and technology in Israel

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Water desalination becomes an increasingly important approach for clean water supply to meet the rapidly growing demand of population boost, industrialization, and urbanization. The main challenge in current desalination technologies lies in the reduction of energy consumption and economic costs. Here, we propose to use charged nanopores drilled in a graphene sheet as ion exchange membranes to promote the efficiency and capacity of desalination systems. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we investigate the selective ion transport behavior of electric-field-driven KCl electrolyte solution through charge modified graphene nanopores. Our results reveal that the presence of negative charges at the edge of graphene nanopore can remarkably impede the passage of Cl(-) while enhance the transport of K(+), which is an indication of ion selectivity for electrolytes. We further demonstrate that this selectivity is dependent on the pore size and total charge number assigned at the nanopore edge. By adjusting the nanopore diameter and electric charge on the graphene nanopore, a nearly complete rejection of Cl(-) can be realized. The electrical resistance of nanoporous graphene, which is a key parameter to evaluate the performance of ion exchange membranes, is found two orders of magnitude lower than commercially used membranes. Our results thus suggest that graphene nanopores are promising candidates to be used in electrodialysis technology for water desalinations with a high permselectivity.

Concepts: Electric charge, Water, Molecule, Atom, Potassium, Electrolyte, Water supply, Desalination

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Membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI) is a water desalination technology based on applying a voltage between two oppositely placed porous carbon electrodes. In front of each electrode an ion-exchange membrane is positioned and between them a spacer is situated, which transports the water to be desalinated. In this work we demonstrate for the first time that up to 83% of the energy used for charging the electrodes during desalination can be recovered in the regeneration step. This can be achieved by charging and discharging the electrodes in a controlled manner by using constant current conditions. By implementing energy recovery as an integral part of the MCDI operation the overall energy consumption can be as low as 0.26 kWh per m3 produced water to reduce the salinity by 10 mM, which means that MCDI is more energy efficient for treatment of brackish water than reverse osmosis. Nevertheless, the measured energy consumption is much higher than the thermodynamically calculated values for desalinating the water, and therefore a further improvement in thermodynamic efficiency will be needed in the future.

Concepts: Energy, Water, Electrochemistry, Thermodynamics, Water supply, Desalination, Reverse osmosis, Chennai

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Consumption of inorganic arsenic in drinking water at high levels has been associated with chronic diseases. Research groups have estimated historic exposure using databases and models of arsenic in drinking water supplies, along with participant residential histories. Urinary arsenic species are an established biomarker of recent exposure; we compare arsenic concentrations in historically collected urine samples with predicted estimates of arsenic exposure. Using a cohort of 462 subjects with at least one urine sample collected from 1984-1992 and an arsenic exposure estimate through drinking water at the time of the urine sample, individual exposure estimates were compared with speciated urine arsenic (UAs) concentrations using correlation and multiple regression analyses. Urine inorganic arsenic (UIAs) concentrations (trivalent arsenic, pentavalent arsenic, monomethylarsonic acid, dimethylarsonic acid) were best predicted by residential water arsenic concentrations (R(2)=0.3688), compared with metrics including water consumption (R(2)=0.2038) or water concentrations at employment locations (R(2)=0.2331). UIAs concentrations showed similar correlation when stratified by whether the arsenic concentration was predicted or measured. Residential water arsenic concentrations, independent of water intake or water concentrations at places of employment, best explain the variability in UIAs concentrations, suggesting historical reconstruction of arsenic exposure that accounts for space-time variability and water concentrations may serve as a proxy for exposure.Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology advance online publication, 27 February 2013; doi:10.1038/jes.2013.8.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Urine, Water, History, Drinking water, Desalination, Water crisis, Water supply network