U.S. Water News Online
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Mechanical engineering students at
Oregon State University have been working to find ways to get potable
water in emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, when human power may
be the only resource available to residents.
So, they have been pedaling bicycles and turning hand cranks to
power water purification devices created for a design course.
Hundreds gathered in the Kelley Engineering Center atrium to watch
24 teams unveil prototypes and compete to see whose design could
produce the largest volume of potable water.
Using only human mechanical power, students had to bring the water
to a boil and then condense the steam into purified water, or --
create a still.
Food coloring signified pollutants. Clean water would be
colorless, proving the device worked.
Top honors went to four juniors and a graduate student for a
device that used friction to heat the water, and pressure to condense
Unlike many teams, who used upright or recumbent bikes with
attached seats, the winners set up a collapsible chair separate from
the pedals and handlebar. This kept their design lighter, one
criterion judges looked at, team member Stephanie Wilton said.
The pedal turned a sandpaper-type wheel, which rubbed against a
copper plate, creating heat. This brought water to a boil. The vapor
traveled through a condensing tube, and the purified water was stored
in a separate container.
The group produced 113 grams of purified water.
Oregon State will select two designs to enter into the regional
competition in the spring, with hopes of progressing to the
international round in fall 2007.
Students who participated in the recent competition will have an
edge when vying for a place on OSU's regional roster because they'll
have seen their prototypes at work, and can make necessary
adjustments and improvements before the internal selection, said Ping
Ge, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
OSU has taken first place at the regional level for the past 10
years, and won the international competition in 2001, Ge said.
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