The World Health Organization estimates that more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and energy-intensive purification technologies (such as reverse osmosis membranes) use an estimated $10.96 in oil to produce 264 gallons of clean water. A simple, solar-powered panel made with a viscose nonwoven fabric, Galaxy®, may revolutionize water purification in countries where clean drinking water—and energy infrastructure—are in short supply.
Kelheim Fibres GmbH, Kelheim, Germany, developed Galaxy to integrate absorbance and liquid distribution in tampons. When F Cubed Australia Pty. Ltd., Victoria, Australia, sought a fabric that would efficiently distribute water over a high surface area, it selected Galaxy last week as a key component for its Carocell™ direct solar-powered desalination panels. With the panels tilted toward the sunlight, input water at the top of the panel slowly becomes dispersed through the viscose nonwoven fabric. The solar-generated heat vaporizes the water, but not the contaminants. The clean water then condenses and trickles from the outlet. Depending upon the size of the panel, one Carocell produces two to three gallons of drinkable water a day. Placed in series, a Carocell panel array can purify enough drinking water for a small village. The panels also function as rain water collectors, ensuring that users have potable water rain or shine.