The next generation might just be able to clean up the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Cynthia Sin Nga Lam from Melbourne, Australia for instance, just entered an innovative device into the Google 2014 Science Fair that not only cleans contaminated water but uses those contaminants to catalyze electrolysis to release hydrogen as a byproduct to be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, which, in turn, produces more clean water!
Her project page is full of chemical interactions, diagrams, and other sciencey goodness that you might want to check out if you’re really into covalent bondage. Otherwise, if you think electron sharing is something that should only be done between consenting adults, here’s the project summary in Cynthia’s own words:
Electricity and clean water -things that we easily have access to are unfortunately luxuries for those in underdeveloped countries.
In fact, not only is there a lack of resources in third-world countries, but also the whole world is facing energy crisis and water pollution. My objective is to find an eco-friendly and economical approach to solve both issues.
My device H2PRO relies on photocatalytic reactions to purify and sterilize wastewater and to generate electricity using hydrogen produced. This sustainable process only requires titania and light. What’s more is that organic pollutant doesn’t only get decomposed but will also enhance the reaction rate.
It is composed of 2 parts –the upper unit for photocatalytic water-purification and hydrogen-generation, which is connected to a fuel cell and the bottom unit for further water filtration.
H2PRO’s feasibility in the removal of organic pollutant was examined to be excellent-almost 90% of organic compound was decomposed after 2hours. However, its performance in electricity generation was quite unstable although theoretically and experimentally the photocatalytic hydrogen yield is proved to be satisfactory and even better in the presence of organic pollutant. I will keep improving this device until stable electricity generation is achieved.
In conclusion, I have successfully introduced a design for a portable electricity-generation and water-purification unit. Generally speaking, H2PRO has demonstrated its potential to feasibly provide clean water and sustainable energy to the needy ones. I will keep “practicalizing” the electricity-generation unit so that people can really benefit from my design one day.
— Cynthia Sin Nga Lam
Image Courtesy of Cynthia Sin Nga Lam, via Inhabitat.com