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Airdate: May 16, 2017
Scientist: Pedro Alvarez

Nanotechnology - Revolutionizing Water Treatment

Nanotechnology -  Revolutionizing Water Treatment
It takes about ten barrels of water to get one barrel of oil.

Nanotechnology - Revolutionizing Water Treatment

ambience: stream
Leonardo da Vinci once wrote that water is the driving force of all nature. Today, it continues to be a driving force, not just to nature, but to the manmade world as well. With the demand for clean water at its highest level in history, scientists are turning to nanotechnology for help. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Alvarez: No single resource is as important to life as is water, but unfortunately, clean water is often a major limiting factor, not only to human capacity but also to economic growth and sustainable development.

Pedro Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of engineering at Rice University.

Alvarez: By providing clean water, pretty much anywhere at a more affordable price in a more accessible manner, nanotechnology can help overcome many of these challenges, not only for the "bottom billion", and by that, I refer to one billion people or so that do not have reliable access to clean water. That includes about 43 million Americans right now that are not connected to municipal water systems, people that live in rural areas. And of course, many, many industries that have operations in remote locations not connected to municipal system that are heavily dependent on water.
For the oil and gas industry, water is a trillion dollar limitation. To get oil out in Texas, often you need to inject about 10 barrels of water to get one barrel of oil. For food, for example, to get one kilogram of beef, you need about 15,000 liters of water, in terms of irrigation for the food that the cattle will eat. Water is often an under-appreciated critical resource to human capacity.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation.