Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are developing a method to convert diesel exhaust into purified drinking water. Called capillary condensation, the process is being developed to help military personal out in the field. It will use the waste produced by the military’s gas-guzzling Humvees to safely provide drinking water without putting military personnel at risk.
After combustion, fuel oxidizes and yields carbon dioxide and water. Research staff member Melanie DeBusk has devised a method to recover the usable portion of this water – about 65 to 85 percent. A hollow steel tube is used to collect condensation as exhaust passes through it. As the technology’s name suggests, the exhaust condensation is gathered in an inorganic porous membrane (like a network of capillaries) – these “pores” contaminants, purifying the water.
The average soldier needs about seven gallons of water a day for drinking, cooking and washing, which is difficult to attain in a desert environment. One gallon of diesel yields one gallon of water, but DeBusk and her team have yet to purify the entire gallon. The capillary condensation process could turn waste exhaust from military Humvees and generators into a vital water source without putting soldiers in danger of having to leave their battlefield stations.