Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plasma Water Cleaning

Clean water is a major need in much of the world. While water is a very common commodity on Earth, drinkable water is much less so. Much of our water is unthinkably salty, polluted, or so swarming with disease-causing bacteria and viruses that drinking it will probably result in your death. In many parts of the world, half of one's day is spent obtaining clean water so that your family doesn't die. And even then, some very clear, very clean water can be infected, and you'd never know until everyone who drank it becomes unbearably sick. In Berkeley, scientists have developed a way to not only sterilize water, but make it actively kill bacteria and viruses for up to a week after treatment, allowing people to stockpile water. They do this all with low temperature plasma, the type that develops in a neon light sign, or those lightning-ball toys. It's cheaper so far than the traditional treatments for water, such as bleach, filtering, or UV light. This kills even drug-resistant bacteria, which could save thousands of lives. Plus, it's cheap. A metal rod and a few cents of electricity will clean a few gallons of water. Even if the average resident can't afford this, there are many charities that would very cheerfully provide it. The saved time will also improve lives, as Dr. Hans Rosling pointed out how the washing machine turned his native Sweden into a first world country. Why? With the time that his mother saved by not having to manually scrub the family's clothing, she was able to educate her children, work to increase her income, and generally make life better all around. Automation has clearly made everyone's lives better. With clean water, child mortality will go down, hygine will improve, there will be more time for education and productive work.

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