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Waterproof Nanotech Sand Could Change Deserts into Farms

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posted on Sep, 17 2009 @ 12:58 PM
The article:

Nanotechnology may conjure up images of tiny robots, or machines in our blood stream, but what about really cool dirt? DIME, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, has licensed a nanotech process to create hydrophobic sand. The extremely thin coating on each grain causes it to repel water. While similar technologies have existed for several years (see the video for ‘Magic Sand‘ below), DIME sells a plastic wrapped hydrophobic sand that can be used to create an artificial water table. This high tech sand bag, called a HST-roll, could change the nature of farming in the Middle East. With a production of more than 3 thousand tonnes a day, DIME is on the path to help the desert bloom.

Water scarcity is an enormous problem around the world. While potable water gets all the press, irrigation is where much of the consumption happens (up to 85% in the Middle East). Regions with sandy soil leach water away as it is being used, and salt rises to the top. That’s a lethal combination for crops. DIME’s HST-rolls work by forming a giant water-proof layer under the topsoil. You lay them out like a pool liner. When crops are grown in the soil above, less water is needed because it isn’t sucked deep underground. It also prevents salt from flowing into the topsoil. Water use could be cut by as much as 35% (granted these numbers are from DIME itself).

DIME’s hydrophobic sand production is licensed from a German firm and they aren’t very forthcoming on the exact process, obliquely referring to the additive used as SP-HFS 1609. Some sort of nanometer thick coating is applied to each and every grain of sand. Similar products, like the one shown in the video above, use a silica layer. No matter the exact mechanism involved, the results are the same: the coated sand will repel water or move through it to minimize water contact. Hence the snake-like shapes that form as the sand is poured into a glass.

Part of the appeal of hydrophobic substances is that they are so versatile. Original designs called for them to be used as solutions to oil spills. Grains of the sand would float on the water until bonding to oil. At that point the sand would clump together and become dense enough to sink, eliminating most of the hazard of the floating crude. Hydrophobic sand can also be used under concrete foundations to stop water-caused settling or seepage. HST-rolls could help solve erosion concerns along beaches.

Further Explanation of existing tech:

Ordinary sand is free flowing and cannot form a structure that holds its shape. Because of its water-repellent properties, when Magic Sand is poured into water, it holds its shape and can even be molded into structures under water.

This basic version of it has apparently been in stores for children to play with.

Other that the usual unintended consequences warnings this seems to be a rather useful product that could make a great deal of difference to a great deal of people and on many fronts.

I for one found it interesting and thought I would share.

[edit on 17 Sep 2009 by schrodingers dog]

posted on Sep, 17 2009 @ 01:30 PM
reply to post by schrodingers dog

Thats a terrific find there S. Dog .

I would still be a bit nervous as to its potential impact on the environment and wildlife.

Some nightmarish 21st century version of asbestos. ...... ughhhh

I get the feeling that even ingesting a small amount could seriously upset the tum-tum .

[edit on 17-9-2009 by UmbraSumus]

posted on Sep, 17 2009 @ 04:11 PM
I too wonder if there is some hidden long term 'boogeyman' just waiting to pop up. I would be very interested to see what environmental impact studies were done, or long term breakdown of the 'coating'.

Another excellent find, sdog! Thanks for sharing!

posted on Sep, 17 2009 @ 04:45 PM
I could see useing it in sand bags for water protection during flooding conditions. The sand bags would not just soak water in to them and would actually repell the water from the sand bags giving more protection.

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