Nanotechnology to create clean water and cool air

Nanotechnology is a manipulation of matter on the atomic or molecular level. A small innovative company in Odessa, Florida, has used this form of technology to create clean water and cool air to foster more sustainable living.

TRANSCRIPT

Nanotechnology is a manipulation of matter on the atomic, or molecular, level.

A small, innovative company in Odessa, Florida, has used this form of technology to create clean water and cool air to foster more sustainable living.

Here's the story.

This is Aqualyte, a thin film polymer with special properties.

It's an organization of the solid plastic material, and we have regions in there that like water molecules and draw them into the plastic, and we create a channel of water molecules from one surface to the other, but it's a solid plastic still, and so oxygen, nitrogen, and the other components of air generally don't pass through.

As the chief technology officer of Dais Analytic, Brian Johnson sees their creation holds many benefits.

Aqualyte is a solid material, and it's a very chemically resistant material.

It can operate in extreme conditions without the deterioration you see in a lot of other materials.

This amazing chemical compound is created on-site in their lab for testing and modification.

It allows us to do product variations and to work on the chemistry of our material itself.

So, we do reactions here which involve modifying the plastic starting materials and turning them into something unique.

Dais Analytic chemist Leena Patra builds polymers in her lab.

Polymers are long chain molecules and, with a little tuning, can take on unique properties.

We got base resin materials.

To that, we add certain chemicals of which we try to tune in the properties to it and get to our Aqualyte material.

After we get the Aqualyte material, which is completely dried-off powder, we dissolve it in a required solvent to get a casting solution.

And then we take the casting solution that we create, and we can do a small-scale-tests cast.

What we do is we draw down a thin film, and then evaporate the solvents out of that film to leave behind a thin plastic sheet.

What we're doing here is for test purposes -- a small-scale, slow sort of production, but allows us to do new things and try them out, so that we're ready to take the polymer to a commercial facility, where it's put onto a 100-foot-long machine and turns out in a long roll at high speed.

One of the first applications they've developed with Aqualyte is ConsERV, an energy-recovery ventilation system.

You need to bring fresh air into your building for the health and safety of your occupants.

But it's often at a different temperature -- at an uncomfortable temperature, but, more importantly, it's got the wrong humidity.

And so, our material's ability to transfer water molecules makes it possible to transfer both the heat and the humidity of that incoming air.

Senior mechanical engineer Lacy Aliff explains how they go from sheets of film to become a viable device.

It's a layering process.

So, the first thing they do is they attach a flow field to the membrane, and then they stack that on top of each other.

And for each layer, it's rotated 90 degrees to get the different air flow.

You put the two end plates on each side, you put corner brackets on the end to secure everything, and that's pretty much a core.

The engineers at Dais are always looking at how to improve the product.

We have an open bullpen back there.

We're not in these little cubicles where everything is separated and confined.

But we're always talking to each other.

And all this collaboration leads to a big need for prototyping.

If we ever wanted to create a new flow field for ConsERV, normally, what we would do, we would either get a part molded so that we could create the flow field, and that takes a long time.

It's expensive -- thousands of dollars.

But what the 3-D printer allows us to do -- quickly make new flow fields in a matter of days and then put them into a core, try out different geometries, different spacing between consecutive layers, and it really lets us help test new ideas quicker and gets results quicker, but also cheaper.

They run testing on these devices under controlled laboratory conditions.

We're able to simulate outside air on one side of a membrane, and then inside air on the other side, and that helps us calculate and judge how effective our device would be.

It's something that's critical to us for developing new products.

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They have also developed a powerful system for water purification.

Our NanoClear product takes the dirtiest water that you can find, which is industrial-waste water, and it turns it into water that is hundreds of times purer than needed for potable water.

It's even more pure than you'll get out of reverse osmosis.

This water-purification system, called NanoClear, undergoes rigorous testing.

Our NanoClear test rig circulates extremely salty water at high temperature past the membrane.

It has a vacuum device that pulls the vapor out and condenses it into clean drinking water.

The company has partnered with its local Pasco County water-treatment system to run a large-scale testing operation.

They've allowed us to install this demonstration unit, a pilot unit, for our NanoClear product.

It's located at a reclaimed water facility, and so we're taking the reclaimed water and treating it.

For the engineer, it's all about persistence.

With any product development in engineering, you design it as best you can the first time, but it rarely comes out perfect the first time that it's made.

You're always going through these iterations and making improvements.

That's one of the most exciting parts of the job, is the constant difficulty, but once you get to the end and you get that perfect part, it's incredibly rewarding.

For the chemist, it's all about making a difference.

I feel proud to be a part of this company because, in today's world, we need pure water, pure air, and definitely we are making an impact in the world by giving people clean water, clean air.

And for the chief technology officer, it's all about the new discoveries that await them.

We found more than four-dozen potential applications that we can pursue with this material, and there's a lot of commonality between them.

Anytime you can move water to make someone's life better -- whether it's in the way they use energy or the water they use -- that's where we see ourselves as having a role.