Researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have
began to develop a new process that could supply drinkable water to U.S.
soldiers without putting military personnel at risk.
7 gallons of water is required for each U.S. soldier per day for drinking,
bathing and preparing food. Providing this amount of water can be difficult and
sometimes dangerous for military personnel when trying to supply it to those on
combat. In addition, personnel trying to provide this much water can
"limit the tactical use of field troops."
past, researchers tried to remedy this water shortage by converting diesel
exhaust to water through thermodynamic condensation, but the
U.S. military rejected the idea because it was heavy, bulky and
required too much energy to operate heat exchangers.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are in the midst of developing a
process called capillary
condensation. The project is being led by Melanie DeBusk, research staff
member of the Physical Chemistry of Materials group in the Materials Science
and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
fuel that the military burns in Humvees, generators and tanks could provide
additional water for soldiers since fuel oxidizes and produces carbon dioxide
and water after combustion. According to DeBusk, one gallon of diesel
fuel should create one gallon of water, but not all of this water is
usable. But with capillary condensation, DeBusk figures she can recover 65 to
85 percent of this water for military use.
system works by using a hollow steel tube with porous walls, where liquid water
is drawn from the outside of the tube. This should allow more water to be
condensed from the exhaust that travels through the tube.
capillary condensation, we've got tiny capillaries in our porous, tubular
inorganic membranes," said DeBusk. "Based on the rules of capillary
condensation, you should be able to condense more water out at a given
temperature compared to if you cooled air directly to that temperature and were
relying on thermodynamic condensation."
condensing in these tiny pores, contaminants in the water are being
"displaced" continuously; meaning that contact between the condensed
water and water-soluble gases is eliminated. In fact, DeBusk noted that there
is a 100-fold reduction in contaminants in the water.
Ridge National Laboratory plans to develop this system over the next couple of
years, and estimate that the cost will be about $6 million.