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Frank Herbert's Moisture Traps May Be a Reality 226

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-a-dry-heat dept.
Omomyid writes "In the seminal science fiction book 'Dune,' Frank Herbert envisioned the Fremen collecting water from the air via moisture traps and dew collectors. Science Daily reprints a press release from the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, where scientists working with colleagues from Logos Innovationen have developed a closed-loop and self-sustaining method, no external power required, for teasing the humidity out of desert air and into potable water."
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Frank Herbert's Moisture Traps May Be a Reality

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  • Still suits next? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:15PM (#28272971)

    If you extract moisture from already very dry are do you not create a dead zone down wind?

    There is life everywhere in the desert, most of which is tuned to live on very little water, but all of which need water from some source occasionally.

    Pushing humans into these areas where the only source of water is minimally moist seems rather pointless and ill advised.

    Would it work on mars?

  • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:16PM (#28272985)

    Really? Is that how they do it?
    Amazing what you can carry on the back of a Camel.

  • by GryMor (88799) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:26PM (#28273071)

    Can you give citations for dessert dwellers using brine solutions and vacuum chambers to pull water out of the air in the absence of any material with a temperature below the due point? I won't hold you to the 'thousands of years' part. Last I checked, dessert dwellers didn't do so well with salt water until recently, and then, only industrial scale desalinization projects. If they were using this method, it seems like they should have hit on desalinization a very long time ago.

    Or did you not RTFA and thus think it was the trivial survival technique using condensation and gravity during night time hours?

  • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:39PM (#28273183) Homepage Journal

    I'm glad that people are focusing on answers for people in underprivileged parts of the world, but it's not some sort of magical discovery.

    You must have read the wrong article. They never claimed it was magic.

    P.S. Claiming you haven't read the article doesn't absolve you if you make a mistake.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:40PM (#28273195) Homepage Journal

    Please. Dune is fantasy, not science fiction.

    Well its not Ringworld, but then its not The Lord of the Rings either. Its between the two. Fantasy readers would probably say it is SF. SF readers would say the opposite.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:57PM (#28273321) Homepage

    When I was 12 they taught us how to make a moisture trap with a can and some cellophane. Granted we weren't in a desert, but I am surprised if this "new" development surprises anybody.

    Clearly, this is on a larger scale and far more impressive than what you did when you were 12.

    Seriously, just because you did something which is conceptually similar, doesn't mean that this isn't an advance. Conceptually, flight hasn't changed since the Wright Brothers. Practically, it obviously has.

    Cheers

  • by Bester (27412) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:59PM (#28273329)
    From a quick googling it seems that the reason that water tanks are illegal in the above states is not to do with affecting the local environment but more to do with the fact that it 'deprives' downstream users of their share.

    I get the feel from the articles that downstream providers are farmers and not parched wildlife.

    Charles
  • by somenickname (1270442) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:04PM (#28273371)

    It seems like if you are able to collect a quart of rainwater in a reasonably sized, "barrel", then there is a lot more than a gallon of water in the air over that acre.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cob666 (656740) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:22PM (#28273531) Homepage
    You need to be moving for the still suit to work.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:22PM (#28273537)

    Do you know why it's illegal to collect rainwater in a barrel in Utah and Colorado? If there is only a gallon of water in the air over an acre of land, removing a quart does in fact change the balance of things.

    That's a load of pseudoscience, backing up a law that exists only for revenue, cronyism, and political control. If you store water off your roof or that falls from the sky, and then use it in your home or for irrigation, you're returning that water right back into the water table...in fact, use in the home returns it more effectively, because it is reintroduced a few feet under the soil by your septic system. You're not 'stealing' water- it doesn't go anywhere.

    If you want to know the real reason laws like that exist, read The Milagro Beanfield War [wikipedia.org] (annoyingly, that link is about the movie, not the book.) I read it in middle school, and it gave me great insight into how big business pushes citizens around.

    Also, you can take a look at what the Israelis are doing to all of the rivers that feed into or border Palestine for a great example of how water is controlled for racial oppression and political power.

  • by Lifyre (960576) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:31PM (#28273603)

    Dude.

    Wow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:49PM (#28273731)

    In addition, film critic Richard Scheib believes The Milagro Beanfield War is "one of the first American films to fall into the Latin American tradition of magical realism. This is a genre that usually involves an earthily naturalistic, often highly romanticized, blend of the supernatural and whimsical."[3] The magic mainly revolves around the character of Amarante Cordova who talks to his dead friend and asks the spirit world for help.

    If you are stating an ideology, would it not make more sense to base it on events that actually happen regularly in the real world, rather than fiction? And if it does happen regularly, why must depictions of it be fictionalised? Is it difficult to wring the point you wish to make out of the truth?

    A parallel case is bit like films about the suffering of prisoners on death row - they will virtually always be fictionalised, and the involved individuals will be falsely convicted. This is because the intention and the ideology is to portray them compassionately. In reality, although false convictions inevitably must happen, the individuals that get sentenced to death typically have a series of prior convictions that would cause liberal moviegoers to vomit. Hence, the point the moviemaker wishes to make cannot be supported by reality, and so fictionalisation follows. Feel free to disprove this by doing a list of films about death row inmates and whether they are based on true events and whether that portrayal includes prior convictions.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:12PM (#28273891) Homepage

    IMO, the dividing line is the amount of hand-waving you do. Like how to survive in the desert:

    Hard fantasy: "I cast a spell of protection from elements"
    Soft fantasy: "The quantronic radiation on this planet..."
    Soft SF: "I'll put on my stillsuit"
    Hard SF: Even more science?

    I sometimes get the impression that SF defines themselves too narrow because SF is still supposed to tell a story which is what should engage you, it's not a discovery show on what science could be like 100 years from now. Of course, if science has no real place at all it's really a space opera but it doesn't have to be primarily a science story as long as the storyline is interrelated with the science.

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:16PM (#28274309) Homepage Journal
    Forget the still suit, I'm trading my ticket for passage to Alderan for a used land speeder so I can become a moisture farmer!

    Now, if I could only find a droid who speaks the binary language of moisture evaporators...
  • by demosthesneeze (1321591) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:18PM (#28274739)
    A system based on these principles wouldn't require energy in the form of electricity, despite the mention of photovoltaic cells. The energy needed to lift the brine to the collectors can be provided by the dilute solution leaving the collectors headed for the underground distillation section. More mass leaves the collectors than enters them, compensating for some energy lost to friction. Given the effects of the salinity of the solution and the availability of solar energy for heat, I don't think the vacuum mentioned would need to play a major role in the distillation phase. The energy stored in the vacuum could be used for mechanical work. If additional energy is required, the heat provided by sunlight could be converted to mechanical work directly, for instance, by means of a stirling engine. Wind power, though not as predictable as the sun is also another option. I think a setup where people manually transfer the brine between open trays and fire driven stills would be feasible in some areas. This could be used to provide clean water for people in poverty stricken regions. The problem with Dune's wind traps is that the dew point would need to be near the temperature of the cave walls. While this would work in some areas, I don't know if the ground is cold enough or the air moist enough everywhere for this to work year round. Though, in the desert, the temperature difference between night and day is significant. Additionally, digging large, stable underground caverns for this purpose requires a lot more advanced planning and labor than airlifting in equipment or dropping crates of salt with instructions.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:03AM (#28275039) Homepage Journal

    I for one will continue diligently keeping urinating into my stillsuit with the water recycling conservatively set on 'maximum.'

    "Set on Maximum"? Huh. You obviously have one of those city-dweller stillsuits. That's a bodybag in the desert.

  • by ls671 (1122017) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:59AM (#28275877) Homepage

    Humidity is calculated in relative terms, 100% humidity at 0C in less than 100% humidity at 38C in term of the absolute amount of water contained in the air.

    How could you have come up with the exact answer while missing the "average temperature in Colorado" parameter ? ;-))

  • by ls671 (1122017) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:11AM (#28275943) Homepage

    Hmm... I suspect that has been said about technologies that after a while ended up being used on a large enough scale to affect the environment.

    Note that I am not saying that this specific technology would end up being used on a large enough scale. I am just reminding history.

  • by Idaho (12907) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:55AM (#28276837)

    Do you know why it's illegal to collect rainwater in a barrel in Utah and Colorado?

    Because it is hard to tax the collection of rainwater?

    Maybe I'm too cynical but I just cannot honestly imagine that this has anything to do with any actual environmental concern.

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