Dr. Zou leads a groundbreaking analysis challenge utilizing nanotechnology to develop cloud-seeding supplies. Cloud seeding is a type of climate modification that mimics what naturally happens in clouds however enhances the method by including particles that may stimulate and speed up the condensation course of. Nevertheless, Dr. Zou explains, “The cloud-seeding supplies used at the moment have been round for a lot of many years. The data and methods are old-fashioned and their effectiveness shouldn’t be effectively understood.”
Cloud seeding has strict necessities. To achieve success, scientists want the suitable air temperature, the suitable humidity, a floor that draws water and retains it, after which the right measurement materials to permit condensation to kind on the particle.
“Via the development in nanotechnology and nanoscience, these days we’re working to design and engineer cloud-seeding supplies with optimum properties to make sure water vapor condensation will happen successfully and maximize the rainfall achieved,” explains Dr. Zou.
Laurel Ruma: From MIT Know-how Overview, I am Laurel Ruma, and that is Enterprise Lab. The present that helps enterprise leaders make sense of latest applied sciences popping out of the lab and into the market place.
Our matter at the moment is cloud seeding to extend rainfall. Though cloud seeding has been round for the reason that Nineteen Forties, local weather change and inhabitants development are driving scientists to take a more in-depth have a look at the expertise, which might provide a viable cost-effective complement to present water provides, significantly in arid and semi-arid areas, just like the United Arab Emirates.
To assist advance the science, in 2015 the UAE authorities launched a brand new initiative, the UAE Analysis Program for Rain Enhancement Science. The purpose is to get different modern initiatives from scientists within the subject of rain enhancement from all around the world, with the profitable concepts acquiring a grant of $5 million to work and enhance on ideas for a interval of three years. Two phrases for you: nanoengineered supplies.
My visitor at the moment is Dr. Linda Zou, who’s a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Khalifa College of Science and Know-how. Dr. Zou leads a groundbreaking analysis challenge utilizing nanotechnology to develop cloud seeding supplies.
She was awarded a grant by the UAE Analysis Program on rain enhancement science from 2016 to 2019. Dr. Zou’s analysis pursuits embody making use of nanotechnology and membrane science to the event of low power and excessive effectivity novel desalination and water purification options. This podcast is produced in partnership with the UAE Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai. Welcome, Dr. Zou.
Dr. Zou: Thanks, Laurel.
Laurel: You have been one of many first scientists on the planet to discover the usage of nanotechnology in cloud seeding. Why are you curious about this sort of analysis?
Dr. Zou: The cloud seeding supplies used at the moment have been round for a lot of many years. The data and methods are old-fashioned and their effectiveness shouldn’t be effectively understood. Via the development in nanotechnology and nanoscience, these days we’re working to design and engineer cloud seeding supplies with optimum properties to make sure water vapor condensation will happen successfully and maximize the rainfall achieved.
Laurel: Cloud seeding is a type of climate modification that mimics what naturally happens in clouds however enhances the method by including particles that may stimulate and speed up the condensation course of. May you clarify in additional element how cloud seeding works?
Dr. Zou: Within the pure water cycle on the earth, the solar irradiates on the floor of our planet and the water on the floor is evaporated by the warmth because the vapors. The tiny vapors rise into the environment with out condensation nuclei, that are small particles. They continue to be as vapors within the air and transfer increased and additional.
The pure occurring condensation nuclei are reminiscent of mud particles, volcano flash, or pollens. Sadly, such materials is unpredictable, the place and the way a lot accessible. Then again, cloud seeding observe is to launch synthetic seeding supplies as nuclei to provoke the water vapor within the cloud to condense into droplets and promote the formation of huge droplets till they develop sufficiently big to fall as rain.
The important thing components of a profitable cloud seeding operation embody, first, figuring out the acceptable cloud for seeding. Second, having the environment friendly seeding materials for water droplet formation.
Laurel: To efficiently cloud seed, you want a lot of issues: the suitable air temperature, the suitable humidity, a floor that draws water and retains it, after which the right measurement materials to permit condensation to kind on the particle. Is that appropriate?
Dr. Zou: Sure. Sure.
Laurel: Though cloud seeding has been round for many years, how does at the moment’s expertise transfer it towards a higher success price?
Dr. Zou: As we all know, the worldwide water scarcity has constantly intensified by speedy inhabitants development and financial growth around the globe. Typical water assets reminiscent of rivers, lakes, and groundwater have develop into very restricted, which is driving scientists and engineers to search for various water assets.
Atmospheric water is one such various useful resource. In the mean time, all potential options that might resolve the water scarcity difficulty needs to be examined rigorously.
Nanotechnology can engineer materials and design the fabric with effectively managed measurement, shapes, and properties. So it has an enormous chance to enhance its effectivity.
Laurel: Your analysis focuses on the cloud seeding materials itself, particularly the nanomaterials as you talked about, which is a simpler device in producing rain from present clouds. What are standard cloud seeding supplies, after which how does nanotechnology come into play?
Dr. Zou: The traditional cloud seeding supplies embody principally hydroscopic salt combination, which might change from salt crystals into water droplets on the proper situation. The supply of this salt is to vaporize them by ignition by a flare machine. This salt vapor then will recondense as very small particles. As a result of the method is random and unsure, the shape and measurement of the particle can’t be managed and most are in all probability too small to be efficient cloud seeding supplies.
The traditional cloud seeding materials can solely be activated at a really excessive relative humidity in environment within the cloud, reminiscent of higher than 75% relative humidity. In my challenge, now we have modified the floor of the fabric to make it extra reactive so it may work at a decrease and wider relative humidity to make it extra prone to occur.
To attain this, we use the nanotechnology to deposit titanium dioxide nanoparticles as a shell layer and sodium chloride crystal core. This nanoengineered shell core structured materials may be activated at a lot broader relative humidity circumstances reminiscent of about 65%. As a result of the coated nanolayers are extra hydrophilic and porous, the water may be absorbed simply and improve the native relative humidity of the crystals and improve the chance of forming water droplets. So it’s a synergistic impact.
Laurel: You have additionally developed one other sort of expertise, ice nucleating particles. How do these evaluate to cloud seeding supplies?
Dr. Zou: Sure. As , chilly clouds with sub-zero temperatures are additionally current within the environment. They’re made from many tremendous cooled water vapors, so though they’re beneath zero, they continue to be as vapor. As soon as such cloud encounters the ice nucleation particles, they quickly kind a lot of ice crystals and bypass the liquid water part. In order that they kind tremendous cool vapor and crystallize into ice particles.
Ice nucleation is vital. It is going to provoke from the skinny water layer shaped on the floor of the ice nuclease, and the ice will develop quickly on the expense of the water vapor within the cloud. We designed and fabricated a porous nanocomposite of 3D lowered graphite oxide and silica dioxide nanoparticles. This materials can provoke ice nucleation adopted by speedy development ranging from a temperature of minus 80 levels. This temperature is far increased than most different identified ice nucleate materials. Usually they require minus 25 levels and even decrease.
Laurel: That is very essential as a result of the cloud seeding supplies go very excessive up into the environment the place it is extremely chilly, appropriate?
Dr. Zou: Sure. The upper you progress as much as the environment, shortly shifting into subzero and really chilly.
Laurel: Prior to now, one of many challenges scientists encountered when researching cloud seeding was the dearth of a simulation setting. You took this on as a part of your analysis. What did you develop and the way will it facilitate future analysis?
Dr. Zou: It’s a problem space and I’ve collaborated with the Cloud Microphysics Modeling Worldwide workforce. The innovation of my challenge is the traits knowledge we obtained from the experiment. This knowledge describing my new seeding supplies property and their interactions in environment. So we will use them as enter to develop one-dimensional and three-dimensional modeling of precipitation enhancement attributable to cloud seeding, and the outcomes show fairly profitable.
Laurel: May you describe that climate chamber that you simply utilized in your experiments? What are the challenges with then deploying the fabric out in the true world?
Dr. Zou: The cloud chamber is a three-dimensional experimental setting. They fluctuate in measurement. There’s a small one, a medium one, and a big one. The small one might be 20 meters and the massive one might be like a constructing. I used an eight cubic meter chamber with managed humidity and temperature. A tool on the prime of the chamber releases the seeding supplies.
Instantly after the seeding is launched, the digital tools, that are digital optical cameras, will shortly take many, many images to file the picture whereas the seeding materials’s falling. Then we will later analyze at what stage the droplets shaped and at what quantity and measurement of the droplets. We are able to do a spectrum evaluation and to seek out out their vapor condensation, the droplet formation, and the scale and the variety of the droplets. Utilizing this info is excellent to check the efficiency of various supplies, and we did that extensively.
Laurel: Then in the true world the place we do not have this managed chamber, it isn’t fairly as straightforward essentially to measure that sort of success.
Dr. Zou: Sure, you’re proper. Within the open setting, it is tougher.
Laurel: Your analysis signifies a milestone towards reaching higher water safety on the planet. What sort of impact can cloud seeding probably have on a rustic, just like the UAE, which usually solely data 4 inches of rain in a 12 months?
Dr. Zou: Yeah. UAE is within the arid local weather zone, and the federal government has already taken the initiative of this UAE analysis program for re-enhancement science. We name them UAEREP [United Arab Emirates Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science]. My analysis work has been supported of their first cycle and obtained glorious worldwide publicity.
At present, along with the Nationwide Middle of Meteorology of the UAE, we will see the applying of those new seeding supplies in actual operations in a short time throughout UAE to extend the rainfall.
Laurel: Again to your expertise, you filed a patent on the cloud seeding materials itself. What are you engaged on now, and what are you occupied with subsequent?
Dr. Zou: Yeah. One patent is filed on the titanium dioxide, sodium chloride materials for heat cloud seeding, and one other patent is filed for porous graphite oxide, silica dioxide, nano compensated for chilly cloud seeding.
In the mean time, I am working collaboratively on a challenge to guage the consequences of those supplies within the open air. A workforce of pilots is conducting an investigation by releasing the seeding supplies and in actual time capturing and analyzing them. It’s extremely promising to know extra in regards to the results of this seeding materials.
Then again, I’m additionally devoted to the size up of the manufacturing, cut back the associated fee, and the applying of the supplies. We’re trying ahead to shifting the seeding supplies from laboratory to the business enterprise for not solely cloud seeding purposes, however wider purposes, reminiscent of completely different climate modification efforts, together with agriculture or crop safety, hail, or storm suppression, and the substitute snow making on the ski resort. Sure, such kind of purposes.
Laurel: Definitely, a lot of potential business ventures. You’re additionally pursuing funding initiatives at this level too, in your analysis. Is that appropriate?
Dr. Zou: We wish to transfer the supplies, as I discussed, from laboratory already and scale up, so it has an opportunity of reaching the market and to succeed in many alternative elements of the world as effectively, as a result of there are such a lot of nations worldwide that observe climate modification.
Laurel: Dr. Zou, thanks a lot for being with us right here on the Enterprise Lab. This has been an absolute, improbable dialog.
Dr. Zou: Thanks for having me.
Laurel: That was Dr. Linda Zou, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Khalifa College of Science and Know-how, who I spoke with from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the house of MIT and MIT Know-how Overview, overlooking the Charles River.
That is it for this episode of Enterprise Lab. I am your host, Laurel Ruma. I am the Director of Insights, the customized publishing division of MIT Know-how Overview. We have been based in 1899 on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how, and yow will discover us in print on the internet and at occasions annually around the globe. For extra details about us and the present, please take a look at our web site at technologyreview.com.
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