what technologies will save us from a humanitarian catastrophe

Russian Security Council warned about the likelihood of fresh water wars ten years ago. Water, according to politicians, is one of the main reserves for increasing the competitiveness of a country (any state) on the world stage and ensuring national interests. Around the same time, “water wars” were talked about in the United States. This was facilitated by the strongest drought in the last 50 years that occurred in the southern states.

Researchers have long argued that the share of clean drinking water on the planet is steadily declining and this trend is increasing. By data UN, over the past half century, in terms of 1 person, the share of drinking water has decreased by more than 60%. Over the next 25 years, a further halving is projected. More than 80 countries of the world (over 2 billion people) experienced a shortage of fresh water already at the beginning of the 21st century.

If we add to this the arguments about the global crisis of water resources, the peak of which is predicted for the 40-50s of this century, and which will lead to structural changes in the world economy, as well as the fact that in some countries today bottled water is more expensive than oil ( in New Zealand, for example, the price of one liter of Antipodes water exceeded the cost of a liter of gasoline by 21 times (!)), then there is an understanding that the production of water, whether it is wastewater treatment or direct water extraction, is becoming the most important task for all mankind.

However, in most cases, the problem is not just that there is not enough water, but that it is polluted. This is usually due to the fact that in developing countries 80% of wastewater is discharged into water bodies without treatment, and it is very difficult to build full-fledged treatment facilities in remote areas. In this regard, we decided to pay attention to both long-standing and recently patented technologies that are designed to help humanity cope with the global challenges of the future.


Most recently, the Indian company IIT Kanpur (IIT-K) and MIT USA jointly got patent for a water purification device. It’s called “A Vessel and A Method for Purifying Water and Monitoring Quality of Water” and is a small vessel that the company claims will be very economical for testing and treating water quality.

The purification vessel contains a regenerative sorbent capable of separating impurities and preserving them wet or dry, thus producing purified drinking water at a cost of only 2 rupees (1.5 rubles) per liter. Water does not require energy to produce and leaves no waste, eliminating maintenance costs.

The novelty of the device lies in its ability to clear and measure through a single channel, which other similar systems do not allow. Additional areas of application for the device, in addition to drinking water, are the food industry, wastewater recycling, batch generation of deionized water and water monitoring in agriculture.

In general, the inventors conclude, the device can be used to monitor and purify other liquids consumed by a person, such as soft drinks and other products of daily consumption.

Photocatalysis is another effective water purification tool that is gaining popularity in recent years. As the name implies, the technology uses a photocatalyst and ultraviolet light to purify water from toxic impurities. The advantage of the technology is that water purification does not require reagents and is based on a chemical reaction in which a special coating evaporates harmful organic compounds under the influence of ultraviolet radiation.

A few years ago, Panasonic Corporation developed and tested in India a technology that couples a photocatalyst (titanium dioxide) with an absorbent and a catalyst called zeolite, effectively separating and recovering the water photocatalyst for reuse. Titanium dioxide can mineralize a range of organic compounds into harmless end products. The catalyst uses ultraviolet radiation, either from the sun or from an artificial source, to separate the substance.

Photocatalytic water treatment systems are suitable for use in water and sewage treatment plants and can treat industrial wastewater contaminated with large amounts of organic matter or metals. Given that most of the clean water today is used for agricultural purposes, such a technology can become very popular.

The scientists of the South Ural State University went in a similar way, patented in 2020 an innovative wastewater treatment method. They developed a photocatalyst with a thermally stable microporous coating based on titanium-silicon oxide. Even at low exposure levels, it is effective against hazardous phenolic compounds in wastewater. In addition, titanium-silicon oxide, or anatase, retains its properties even at temperatures up to 700 ° C, which makes it possible to use it in many technological processes in production.

An innovative coating is applied to glass plates that are irradiated with ultraviolet or simply sunlight. Then, contaminated water is passed through the flow reactor, and the active radicals released during irradiation destroy dangerous organic compounds in it.


A special mention among the technologies for water purification is, perhaps, nanotechnology. Today, several approaches and processes for applications at the atomic and molecular levels are being developed. They are considered to be modular, highly efficient and cost effective compared to traditional methods. Technologies typically include the use of silver, copper, and zero-valent iron (ZVI) nanoparticles in nanostructured photocatalysts, nanomembranes, and nanoadsorbents.

The advantage of nanotechnology is that the high surface to volume ratio of nanoparticles enhances the adsorption of chemical and biological particles, allowing the separation of contaminants at very low concentrations. Nanoadsorbents have specific physical and chemical properties to remove metal contaminants from water. The most common are carbon nanotubes, which are able to remove organic, inorganic and biological compounds from water.

Today, companies such as Alfa Laval, Applied Membranes, Dow DuPont, GEA Group, Inopor and Koch Membrane Systems are involved in the development of such membranes.

Some nanotechnologies use fossil materials. For example, zeolite is a naturally occurring mineral that some scientists are interested in because of how well it works as an adsorbent in water. It is able to capture large molecules.

More recently, Japanese scientists, inspired by the structure of Teflon, developed seawater desalination technology – it allows you to get rid of salt molecules at the nanolevel. Using computer simulations, they created a working sample showing the effectiveness of a fluorine-based nanostructure for salt filtration. The head of the experiment, Ito Yoshimitsu from the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Tokyo, claims that fluorine nanochannels have shown themselves to be even more energy efficient than other known filtration methods.

Just get some water

It would be wrong to lose sight of methods not of purification, but of obtaining water in a variety of ways – from air, fog, and even fruits. This latest technology patented Australian company Botanical Water Foundation. It allows you to filter and purify water from vegetables, fruits and sugar cane, which is usually disposed of during the concentration process. During the production of finished products – tomato paste, concentrated fruit juices or sugar – trillions of liters of water are wasted around the world as a result of evaporation.

Together with the Japanese FUJITSU, the Botanical Water Foundation launched the BWX platform in 2022, which will use blockchain technology to provide transparency and traceability of processes throughout the entire production cycle, including purification, sale, purchase, delivery and use of the product.

To obtain water, of course, a completely natural evaporation process is also used. Startup Zero Mass Water patented technology hydropanel. It uses solar energy and creates enough clean drinking water for two to three people – about 10 liters per day. Fans drive air through the hygroscopic material, and then the water vapor extracted from the air condenses and accumulates in a 30-liter tank. Further, the water is filtered, minerals are added to it to improve the drinking properties of water. The system can be connected to your home’s faucet for quick access to ready-to-drink water.

A similar technology is used by Innovative Water Technologies, which developed a water filtration system called the SunSpring Hybrid. It is a self-contained portable filter powered by solar or wind power that provides 20,000 liters of clean water per day for ten years or more. The filter also allows you to collect rainwater and use it as drinking water.

Speaking of another completely natural (but laborious) way to get water. Non-Profit Organization Dar Si Hmad collects mist on the slopes of the mountain and produces over 6,000 liters of water per day. It is the largest project in the world to use this technology. It is, however, ridiculously simple. The mist is “captured” as it passes through a tangle of large vertical networks and flows into a collection system where it is filtered and mixed with groundwater. Then water is supplied through the pipeline to all those in need.

The article described only some of the technologies that mankind has developed and continues to develop so that one day they will not die of thirst. Apparently, their number will grow and they will become more and more in demand, as hints of the increasing value of clean water come across all the time. So, at the end of June 2022, Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmat arguedthat water is not a human right and should be privatized and controlled by multinational companies. Such sentiments cannot but be alarming.

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