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Portable tech to provide water, electricity?

Portable tech to provide water, electricity?

It would convert non-potable water into drinking water and also generate electricity.

Washington: Coming soon: A new mobile technology that would convert non-potable water into drinking water while also extracting hydrogen to generate electricity, say scientists.

A team, led by Jerry Woodall at Purdue University, has developed an aluminum alloy which they claim could be used in the new mobile technology to provide power and drinking water to villages and also for military operations. The alloy contains aluminum, gallium, indium and tin.

Immersing the alloy in freshwater or saltwater causes a spontaneous reaction, splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules; the hydrogen could then be fed to a fuel cell to generate electricity, producing water in the form of steam as a byproduct, said Woodall.

"The steam would kill any bacteria contained in the water, and then it would condense to purified water. So, you are converting undrinkable water to drinking water," he said.

Because the technology works with saltwater, it might have marine applications, such as powering boats and robotic underwater vehicles. It can also be used to desalinate water, said Woodall.

The team envisions a new portable technology for regions that aren't connected to a power grid such as villages in Africa and other remote areas. "There is a big need for this sort of technology in places lacking connectivity to a power grid and where potable water is in short supply. Because aluminum is a low-cost, non-hazardous metal that's the third-most abundant metal on Earth, this technology promises to enable a globalscale potable water and power technology specially for remote locations," he said.

The potable water could be produced for about US dollars one per gallon, and electricity could be generated for about 35 cents per kilowatt hour of energy.

"There is no other technology to compare it against, economically, but it's obvious that 34 cents per kilowatt hour is cheap compared to building a power plant and installing power lines, specially in remote areas," Woodall said.

first published:May 04, 2011, 19:30 IST