Imagine waking up and opening the tap to muddy water. According to the World Health Organization, that is the predicament that 1.8 billion people worldwide find themselves in. Often water treatment plants are expensive and require too much energy to run. A team at Cornell hopes to change that. Pristine, crystal clear water is a luxury, AguaClara hopes to make it a right.
What would you explore if you owned your own spacecraft? The rings of Saturn? The surface of Mars? Research conducted by Cornell University’s Cislunar Explorers could soon make these dreams a reality. By trying to create a spacecraft capable of using water as rocket fuel, Prof. Mason Peck, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his team of engineers, hopes to revolutionize space exploration.
The presence of life on Earth is tied in multiple ways to the presence of one substance — water. Water is the biggest component in most living organisms and has the power to leave a long-lasting impact on the environment. It is no surprise, then, that astrobiologists have long focused on understanding how exoplanets could develop the right conditions for life. What happens when dynamic cycles of activity are present without water? That is the question that first arose in the mind of one Cornell scientist.
The other day, I was in the woods and saw color explode. I watched the red radiate, as bright and burning as the color of a sprouting rose or the dark red of an apple in the late autumn. The color drifted on the surface of the water, as if a layer of oil had been spilt, swirling in globs. Then came bursting orange and yellow, colors of the edges of fire, smoldering on hazy liquid. The green was alive, like the verdant greens of the moss growing on the surrounding trees.
Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms is a simple reaction that holds important implications towards energy and fuel needs. Photovoltaics — the process that converts solar energy into electricity — offers a feasible way to use light energy to split water. Prof. Peng Chen, chemistry, and his team aimed to optimize this process by studying the surface of nanorods of semiconductor titanium dioxide with respect to levels of photocatalytic reactivity. Their research indicates that the variations in the structure of the surface of the nanorods lead to variable water-splitting activity. Titanium dioxide nanorods can be used as photoanodes in a photochemical cell.
Over 620 people have signed a petition as of Wednesday calling to end the sale of bottled water on campus, addressed to President Elizabeth Garrett and the Student Assembly, according to Zeyu Hu ’19. The petition, which launched Monday evening, is sponsored by the S.A.’s environmental committee and includes signatures from undergraduates, faculty members and alumni. “The majority of the responses have been positive and supportive,” said Hu, a member of the S.A. environmental committee. “The petition has been generating meaningful discussion about tangible steps to reduce plastic products such as disposable water bottles that enter the campus waste stream.”
The committee’s petition is the latest step in a movement to end the sale of bottled water on campus that began several years ago. In 2010, the S.A. passed a resolution called “Take Back the Tap” which recommended that Cornell take several measures towards limiting the use of bottled water on campus.
Since receiving a $20,000 grant from the Student Assembly’s Infrastructure Fund in Dec. 2014, Take Back the Tap — a student outreach campaign that aims to spread awareness about the harmful effects of plastic bottle usage on the environment — has installed water bottle fillers in five new buildings across campus over the summer. As of April 2013, 33 water bottle fillers, which operate with motion sensors to fill water bottles, were installed in campus buildings that included Bailey Hall, Mann Library, Olin Library and Schwartz Performing Arts Center, according to a University inventory on bottle filling stations. Students can find the new fillers in Barton Hall, Helen Newman Hall, Bartels Hall, Kennedy Hall and Teagle Hall that were installed over the summer, according to former Take Back the Tap president Alexa Bakker ’15. Take Back the Tap’s current president Susan McGrattan ’17 said the installments this summer were concentrated in athletic buildings due to a high demand for water in these locations.