More than two thirds of the planet Earth is covered by water that we cannot drink. As increasing droughts and population expansions grow yearly, the need for our life’s blood is of epic proportions. Although we have a method of purifying some of the water we come across, mass consumption of the ocean is still being developed. However, Lockheed Martin may be on the track to increasing our usable water supply.
In March of 2013, Lockheed Martin had been awarded the patent for Perforene. This material is an ultra-thin membrane that can desalinize the ocean waters making it possible to drink. However, humanity may still have future problems - but not from the lack of technology. What is entailed with desalinizing the oceans and seas to bring potable water to the dehydrating masses?
1. Station Construction - Although the technology exists, someone has to pay for the construction of developing each station that will be used to provide drinking water. Unless a donation or governmental grant can be awarded, many countries will be too poor in order to build one themselves - unless the technology will be affordable and easy to operate.
2. Distribution to the Masses - A location in which the water is desalinized is one thing, but a method to provide water to inland areas is another expense that some locations may not be able to afford. A pumping station and pipes would have to be developed in order to send the water where it needs to be. Trucking water inland would be impractical, especially for longer distances. However, some areas may not have a choice.
3. Longevity - Once the membranes are in active use, how long will they last and how often will technicians have to replace them? The Perforene membranes are so thin that simply handling the material could cause them to tear before actual installation. A practical method would be to utilize the membranes much like we handle heating system filters: a plate that slides in and out of a device for easy replacement. However, something like that is currently pure speculation.
4. Licensing - Another problem with delivering water to the thirsty masses would be the licensing of developing such a system in countries that don’t want such. Although we want to help those in need, it will take government approval before a pumping station and pipelines can be developed as it would entail a somewhat major construction of a water network. Without the approval of local governments, the people within its borders will have to rely on other methods.
5. Commercialization - In other areas that have the money to implement such developments, access to clean water in such a profound amount could open the doors for bottling companies. This is provided that the technology isn’t more expensive than what is currently being utilized. Some companies will simply use tap water through a reverse osmosis system to bottle profits.
6. Interest - Like all technological improvements of the world, improvement upon development relies on interest within the product. Take solar cells for example. Solar power is not a new technology, but it didn’t get the recognition it has now back in the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast, the interest for gaming and telecommunications was so high that innovative developments are designed on a yearly basis. In January of 2013, Kingston introduced the first 1TB flash drive. In 2003, 80GB hard drives were impressive and sought after for desktop computer systems. If the interest is there, so will be the innovation to improve.
Could this technology only be delaying the inevitable, or could it buy humanity more time to develop other technologies that can help the planet heal? We already know that there is a correlation between plant-life and the amount of water that is provided in any given area. Can humans change their exhaustive ways in order to render desalinization obsolete, or will this technology be the staple of human development for centuries to come?