back to article New tech lets you drink exhaust fumes

US government boffins have come up with a cunning plan to use diesel fuel for two purposes – both conventionally to generate power, then afterwards as drinking water. The technology to be used will also be of interest to airship enthusiasts, as it could be used in one of the major problems facing helium-filled dirigibles. The …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    Or ...

    We could leave Afghanistan to the Afghans ... Seems folks have been happily living there for tens of thousands of years, without the need of so-called "high tech".

    Sometimes complicating things just makes life more complicated.

    1. Chris Miller


      For sufficiently small values of 'happy'. If you're happy to live in a society where young women get their noses chopped off for fraternising with the opposite sex and warring families carry on blood feuds for endless generations.

      Note that I'm not suggesting that this of itself justifies Western intervention, merely that portraying pre-19th century Afghanistan as some kind of Garden of Eden is a little misleading.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        your idea of happy is not the same as someone from afganistan. Please pull your head out of your arse and just accept that certain acts are acceptable to certain races, no matter how bad you or I think it is. Just because you can't accept the customs of another race doesn't mean that the rest of us are racist as well.

        1. Chris Miller


          You are utterly and unspeakably wrong - racism would be to assume that it's OK to mutilate women if they are of a different race. Perhaps you should read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, paying particular attention to articles 2 and 5.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: FFS

          "Just because you can't accept the customs of another race doesn't mean that the rest of us are racist as well."

          Here comes the racism card! To rephrase your opinion, "We should let people treat other human beings as disposable playthings because they feel like it and claim it is right in their culture." I see that no thought is given to the victims of such crimes other than that they supposedly should have played along with the "customs" of such societies. And note that it is all about culture, not race, so maybe you might want to clue up on the difference.

          You might think that sparing people from arbitrary punishment, torture and so on is too much "white man projecting his morality again", but I think you'll find that most people buy into basic human rights if you give them the chance. It's only apologists for despots and criminals who think that such regimes need an opt-out "because that stuff is part of their tradition".

          If there was ever an offside trap for political correctness, the linesman would be waving his flag at your misguided "racist white person remark is racist" remarks. For fuck's sake, indeed.

      2. jake Silver badge

        @Chris Miller (and other sub-ACs who are afraid to comment, yet willing to "thumbs down")

        Do you understand why your kind of moralization is a part of the problem?

        You are assuming that your morals should be my morals.

        Here's a hint, ke-mo sah-bee: They ain't.

        And THAT, friends & foes, is EXACTLY why we are in this predicament.

        1. Chris Miller

          No problem, Tonto

          Ethics & morals can get quite complex, especially as applied to other people. Some folks think it's immoral to eat meat. I don't agree, but I'm happy not to interfere with their vegetarianism as long as they don't try to interfere with my carnivorous lifestyle.

          But I treat with disdain the ludicrous post-modernist view that 'de gustibus non disputandum est' and that all ethical systems are equal - they ain't. Certainly anyone who thinks that it's moral to kill or mutilate people who don't want to comply with their arbitrary and personal moral code is going to get an argument from me. As I said, I don't want to argue that this trivially justifies going in with all guns blazing, but sometimes it may - and several centuries of moral philosophers have agreed with this view.

          1. jake Silver badge

            I find it curious, Chris Miller ...

            ... that you don't mention ethos.

            On the other hand, you invoke pathos ... but thankfully you're sensible (or lucky) enough to avoid logos ... That's close to being religious, ke-mo sah-bee ...

            Modern communications has made the world a very small space. Conversely, modern communications has also made the world a very large collection of small spaces.

            Surely, to the proverbial "thinking man", your concept of "happy" is quite provincial, and local to your small version of the global whole?

            Note that nowhere in my commentary do I condone torture, in any form.

            1. Chris Miller

              I'm glad to hear, jake

              that you don't condone torture. Yet you state that one can live happily in a society that not only condones it, but insists upon it if family 'honour' is to be maintained.

              I'm fully aware that some of the things that make me happy aren't the same as those of my next-door neighbour, let alone a San bushman. But it's perfectly possible to see this as true and yet to believe in some fundamentals that *are* universally applicable; such as life, liberty and security of person.

              1. jake Silver badge


                Travel some. Seriously.

                I've been in places that most people reading this would consider hell-holes. But I'll tell you something ... Regardless of our western concept of "life, liberty and security", 99% of the rest of the world will welcome you with open arms, WITHOUT prejudice, if you understand the simple concepts of water, food, shelter, and friendship ... and how hard the four are to produce, yet so easy to extinguish. These are the only true, universal, building blocks. REGARDLESS of the local concept of "hono(u)r". So-called "hono(u)r" only gets in the way when an outsider tries to invoke his/her value system on a societal system he/she is visiting.

                The "awful" things that your local media portray as happening in any given society simply don't happen all that frequently ... any more than they do in Glasgae, laddie ... or da Bronx ... or Taiwan ... or Kuwait ... And here's the reason: They are societal no-nos. People simply don't do that, in that society.

                I kinda suspect soccer hoodlums have caused more mayhem over the last thirty years than any of the singleton cases that you can quote (any given "civil war"[1] excepted, of course).

                [1] Probably the worst term ever ...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Sadly ...

      if we pulled out of Aghanistan, the Taliban would be "running" the place within 6 months. Now that isn't in itself a problem - it's not like there's oil there to make us see the atrocities. However, the big wide open bits of Afghanistan that the Taliban won't care about, will be occupied by people who *really* hate the west. Who will happily train their suicide bombers to go back to the west with anonynimity. Then include a lot of extremists from Pakistan intent on overthrowing their government ...

      Pakistan is a nuclear power.

  2. Ru

    Not the only way it was done...

    The original Graf Zeppelin could use Blaugas as a fuel, as that weighed the same as the equivalent volume of air. Not a bad solution; just refill empty fuel bladders with unpressurised air and neutral bouyancy is regained.

  3. NotesMaster

    This isn't new

    The Britsih Navy developed this tech during the second world war to enable combat operations in the desert to use it instead of having to cart lots of water.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just hope that filter stays good

    or the water will start to taste like petrol.

    Positive news for the blimpy crowd though.

    On another angle, the Graf Zeppelin II wasn't allowed to carry passengers after a (spectacular) crash where, er, most of the people involved actually survived? Objectively the death rate compares rather well with the usual "all dead in a fireball" that you get from even today's plane crashes, nevermind back then. Not to mention all the Stradivarii and other valuable items lost in such accidents. Why the panic over airships when planes and ships too manage to have accidents and kill lots of people, like, oh, the titanic?

    And then there's the curious games the USoA government is playing with the world's helium supply. What are they up to, anyway?

    1. Liam Johnson

      Why the panic

      Because new technology is nasty and dangerous and one person dying from new technology counts more than a 1000 people dying from the old boring stuff.

      Bit like radiation that way.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I think that something like 20% of civilian rigid airships built after world war 1 crashed or burst into flames. If the same proportion of planes had terminal "incidents" then we would probably try to find another way to travel. Actually the accident rate of "comet" airplanes was similar, and led to similar panic iirc.

      Oh, another thing, people tend to survie plane crashes in similar proportions to airship crashes. If you crash at an airport then 50% or more tend to survive (eg Hindenburg) if you crash in a remote area most everyone dies (eg Dixmude).

  5. Efros

    Little known fact????

    WTF, maybe to backwoods bandits.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Little Known fact? It certainly is...

      ... to anyone without a degree in Science or Engineering. I can guarantee my parents dont know about this, nor my sisters, all of whom are highly educated. But guess what? They are educated in fields outside of Science. Are you saying that makes them Backwood Bandits?

      The vast majority of the worlds population is not involved in Science or Engineering roles, nor do they study these subjects in detail. So for them this fact is unknown. Maybe this is common knowledge amongst us geeks here on the Reg, but dont go assuming that everyone knows something just because you do...

      1. Efros

        Alkane combustion

        Is taught at O level, besides anyone who has used a paraffin heater or its ilk would know about the condensation issues.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Little known fact

        Well, by that logic, virtually all facts are "little known". I think the wording of the article implies that it's little known within industry. In fact the information is conveyed to every UK high school student.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    "But it's a little-known fact that hydrocarbon fuels make water as they burn."

    More "projection of stupid" from Lewis Page. Does the man's typical day involve him shouting "Stupid!" in the face of everyone he meets? Leave the house: "Stupid!" to some random bloke walking his dog (and "Stupid canine!" to the dog). Approach Tube/bus/train station/limousine: "Stupid!" to the attendant/driver/inspector/butler holding the door open.

    But thanks for exposing the super-secret knowledge withheld from us by the mainstream media. Sheesh!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      well known

      But it's a well-known fact that Lewis is hard of thinking.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's a day for airships.. I was just wondering this morning why they don't just adapt the size of the balloon to change the pressure inside and hence rise and fall as the goodyear blimp passes by the window.. and now this.

    everybody likes airships.

    That is all.

    1. handle

      Why you can't change the size of the balloon

      Because you would need an extremely strong balloon to cope with the pressure, and that would be extremely heavy, making it untenable. That's why current designs need to have safety vents.

      If we could make an extremely rigid, light sphere then we could evacuate it - it would have more buoyancy than a helium/hydrogen balloon and would need no rare or dangerous gases to fill it.

      1. ArmanX
        Thumb Up

        Perhaps a compressor, instead?

        Effectively a pump that would pull Helium out of the balloon(s), stowing it in a rigid container as very high pressure; the pressurized tank and compressor shouldn't be terribly heavy, and as the balloon(s) scale up, the size of the compressor and tank would scale much more slowly, making it more worthwhile the bigger it gets...

  8. annodomini2

    Missed opportunity

    Fit this to exhausts of existing cars, instant zero emission vehicle.

    1. Ed Deckard

      Zero water vapor, morelike

      The rest of the stuff in the exhaust is still emitted.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      I'm not sure you understood what's happening here...

    3. Mitch Kent
      Thumb Down

      Not quite good sire.

      You still have all the muck out in the air, it just wont be as wet.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Missed opportunity

      Er, actually I don't think it's the water vapour in the exhaust that people are talking about when they carp on about emissions.....

    5. Swoop

      Re: missed opportunity

      Unfortunately, only the water content is collected. All the CO2 and other trace gases will still be belched out into the atmosphere.

  9. Swoop

    Chemistry fail

    Um, the equation doesn't add back, and also you have to double up on the amount of dodecane to prevent having to split an O2 molecule. I think you'll find it's...

    2C12H26 + 37O2 -> 24CO2 + 26H2O

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chemistry fail

      Which still doesn't add back - if you have to double up the dodecane, you also have to double up the O2, so 2C12H26 + 74O2 -> 24CO2 + 26H2O.

      Flames, obviously.

      1. Efros


        Guess you failed too,

        2C12H26 + 37O2 -> 24CO2 +26H2O

        1. Anonymous Coward

          I Fail

          Indeed I did, that ought to teach me to "correct" someone else's math/chem without triple checking my own...

  10. BoldMan


    The last book in the Flashman series, "Flashman and the March" covers the same expedition into Abyssinia (Ethiopea) that your link is about. Napier's Expedition was a colossal success in terms of achieving it goal with a minimal loss of life. It should be required study of our current military and political leaders!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here.

    In WW2 Cars used to recoup water from exhaust gas. There was even an old film once with a such a device on the roof.

    1. Paul RND*1000

      Gas bags

      Those bags were full of coal gas (or whatever the municipal gas supply was), used as a fuel since Blighty had plenty of it available while petrol, needed for the war effort, was heavily rationed to the public. Sort of like a rather-less-safe version of LPG tanks used today in some vehicles.

      Some buses and other large vehicles in WW2 towed gas generating units behind them, which burned coal or possibly sawdust to generate the gas which powered the engine.

      1. Chris Miller

        Paul's right

        and not just WW2 either - see my 1984 snap of a gas bus in China:

  12. Chemist

    "But it's a little-known fact"

    What !

    Anyone sitting in a rush-hour traffic jam can see the water running out of the exhaust pipe of any recently started car.

  13. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge


    Isn't there a law of thermodynamics to be satisfied here somewhere?

    If these micro-porous ceramic jobbies convert steam to liquid water, at any sort of useful conversion rate they must be red-hot, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      why they're ceramic

  14. Supplicant

    You might be a redneck if

    your first thought was how this technology could be used to build a more efficient still.

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