Hokum And Progressive “Engineering”

ThunderF00t has posted some videos about the “Waterseer,” a device that purports to provide drinking water in arid regions. Actually it’s just more of the typical “Green Tech” Hokum where the goal is to separate fools from their money and waste time and energy on fundamentally flawed ideas.

A thermal model.

Here’s the waterseer Indiegoogo video.


And some more stuff from UC Berkeley.

WaterSeer Collider winners announced

Click to access VICI-Labs-Collider-Project-Submission.pdf


The biggest question I have about this is how come nobody, in all of history has not made something like this.  Look at what’s involved.  The vertical axis wind turbine has been around for over 1000 years,  Fans probably for longer than that, beaten copper vessels since before the bronze age and copper sheet and pipe for about as long.  Frankly there’s nothing in the waterseer that’s less than 1000 years old.  So why didn’t the Persian, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese or any of the other civilizations that have been around in the last 1000 years in fairly arid climates and needing good water sources, build something like a waterseer?



Instead the ancient civilizations built massive waterworks and aqueducts to feed the farms and cities.  Just think what would have happened if they had only realized that they could have stuck a small copper pipe in the ground, hooked up a windmill and like magic, they could get water.

The reason is that the device will not work.  The fundamental assumptions are wrong.  Especially the thermodynamics and heat transfer.  The way the waterseer is supposed to work is  backwards.  First of all it doesn’t look as it they took the chimney effect into account.  The pressure at the top of the waterseer is going to be lower than that at the bottom.  By about 2 psi or so depending on the height of the pipe.  So any air on the top needs to be pumped down to the bottom,  presumably by a more powerful fan than shown in the waterseer video.  A fan that would need to be powered by a much larger turbine than the one in the video.  Then there’s the problem of actually cooling the air enough to cause significant condensation.  I learned a long time ago that when it comes to heat transfer, air is a very poor circulation fluid. It really doesn’t want to absorb or release heat very well.  That’s why double paned glass windows work.  So would the surface area of the waterseer tube actually provide enough surface for cooling the air enough to cause condensation. My in my head estimate says no and I don’t feel like trying to dig out my air tables to confirm that.  My guess is that at best you would only get a 2 deg. C difference in air temp through a waterseer.  Which is nowhere near enough to condense and quantity of water.

Of course the real problem isn’t typically the access to water, it’s the access to CLEAN water.  Which anybody with any experience with standing water in small vessels knows is the real problem.  This hokum does nothing to attack that problem.  If nothing else it damages the  students at Berkley by indulging in green hokum rather than forcing them to deal with the water problem in a realistic and direct way.  Instead the students are wrapped in a Progressive feel good “combine engineering and art” approach which isn’t designed to teach them the process for designing for real problems.  Which means that the whole thing is a waste of the students time and money.  A waste that will filter down their entire lives if they don’t gain the experience in the real world.

A real world that could use better solutions for water, especially in the parts of the world like India where water and sewage issues. It’s actually the sewage that’s the big issue.  Especially in urban areas, which are the largest population growth centers for the foreseeable future.  It’s sewage, especially with low water available that’s going to be the big engineering issue in the Third World. Design better ways of dealing with sewage and water becomes a much smaller issue.  That would be a far better challenge for University students, especially in California where a lot of stuff and thinking about that very issue is already going on.  That is the kind of work that engineers do for real and it’s important work.       For how important the work might be I give you the Dubai poop truck nonmoving parade.

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