Water

Beyond the air we breathe, the most vital element for sustaining human life is water.

This is abundantly clear when we have an acute need for it, otherwise water is something we take completely for granted.

Even Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists water in third place (behind air & food) as the most psychologically important thing in our lives. Given the fact we can survive weeks without food and merely hours without water, I would argue that Maslow’s findings confirm that (in qualitative terms) water is literally more important than we realize.

Until disaster strikes.

When we can no longer simply turn on a tap and have clean drinking water filling our cup, glass or aluminium bottle, it becomes crystal clear to us just how important this precious elixir is to our survival.

Given the recent rash of floods, quakes and tornadoes, it would be wise to take stock of how we plan on ensuring that more and more individuals and communities on the planet will be able to have reliable sources of clean drinking water. Perhaps more to the point, there are emerging technologies which, in the event of contamination, will enable us to procure what we require for survival. (i.e.: Clean drinking water.)

The corresponding question several scientists working in the field of biomimicry and nanotechnology have rightly asked is, “What are the physiological processes which allow this purification process to occur, and how can we replicate them?”

One of the most intriguing answers has to do with something called aquaporin proteins. They regulate the pressure in our eyes and red blood cells, and allow water to flow back and forth to prevent the rupturing of our cells or organs.

They also present significant potential for dealing with water contamination during floods, chemical leaks and general sewage treatment (a significant issue in its own right.) They may also provide an efficient cost-effective mechanism for transforming deserts into productive agricultural regions.

While this process is still several years away from being implemented in the field, it provides an excellent example of the kind of technologies that are currently being developed which are informed by natural processes and will be used to solve real and relevant challenges we face on a daily basis.

(Feel free to gulp at this moment.)

Fresh drinking water is a legacy we owe to not only our children, but the children of all of earth’s inhabitants as well. I will keep you posted on further progress made with respect to aquaporin proteins, and other promising nanotechnologies, which may provide viable solutions in this vitally important area of scientific discovery & implementation.