Liquid

New Process Will Allow You to 3D Print Glass on Demand

The surge in affordable 3D printing in recent years has allowed hobbyists to craft everything from customized toys to hair to prosthetic duck feet, with the only limit being the creator’s imagination. Now, researchers in Germany are close to achieving a technique that could revolutionize both 3D applications and glassmaking by giving us the power to 3D print glass.

In a study published in Nature this week, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) investigator Dr. Bastian Rapp presented a way of manufacturing a “liquid glass” that can be manipulated with 3D printing software and then heated until it’s a useful solid. (Normal glass consists of melted sand made from sheets in molten tin vats.) By making the glass dispensable through 3D printing nozzles, Rapp believes we’ll soon be able to 3D print glass that’s of sufficient quality for lenses, mirrors, and even drinking cups.

Previous attempts to conceive of a new way of glass production via 3D printers haven’t resulted in glass smooth enough for…

New tech harvests drinking water from (relatively) dry air using only sunlight

water from air prototype converter
WATER FROM AIR This prototype device captures water from air. Then, when exposed to sunlight, the black-painted layer (top) heats up and releases captured moisture as vapor into a container. A condenser then cools the vapor, converting the water to liquid form.

A new device the size of a coffee mug can generate drinkable water from desert air using nothing but sunlight.

“With this device, you can harvest the equivalent of a Coke can’s worth of water in an hour,” says cocreator Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s about how much water a person needs to survive in the desert.”

Though that may not sound like much, its designers say the current device is just a prototype. But the technology could be scaled up to supply fresh water to some of the most parched and remote regions of the globe, such as the Middle East and North Africa, they say.

Previous attempts at low-energy water collection struggled to function below 50 percent relative humidity (roughly the average afternoon humidity of Augusta, Ga.). Thanks to a special material, the new device pulled water from air with as low as 20 percent relative humidity, Yaghi and colleagues report online April 13 in Science. That’s like conjuring water in Las Vegas, where the average afternoon relative humidity is 21 percent.

Drinking water supplies can’t keep up with the rising demands of a growing human population, and shifts in rainfall caused by climate…