Holocene 911*

Thoughts about the cactus project

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

I haven't had much to photograph the last few days of this project. Since I decided, much more logically, to use cactus to feed cattle, there wasn't much to physically do. I have been doing a lot of research and economic modeling. It hasn't been the most entertaining but I have become more organized with my arguments and I feel much more knowledgeable about what I'm talking about. The VENSIM modeling has been a struggle for me. my model went from being fairly straightforward to being pretty complex, with a LOT of help from Ammar. I was able to help a bit, but I don't know what I'm doing on the program enough to be helpful. I tried to add the weather as a variable and now the model won't work at all. Whoops! It worked long enough before the attempt to add the weather for us to get sufficient data. The model was very helpful. It told us that you would have to produce 68 million pounds of cactus in order to be profitable.

The idea is possibly economically feasible. It is also difficult to predict the price of cactus, as not many places produce cactus in such quantity. However, as time goes by, the price of corn goes up as there becomes less and less available. Likewise, if a trend in favor of cactus continues, the price of cactus would go down as it becomes more plentiful.

I never ended up figuring out exactly how long it takes cactus to grow. I would have guessed that it would take a very long time for the cactus to grow, but the information I did find said that 60,000 lbs of cactus could be grown per acre annually. Therefore I would guess it takes around a year for cactus to grow.

The cooking really did not go well... I'm glad I didn't continue with that part of the project. I'm not sure how to incorporate that into the presentation.  I'll go do some more work on the presentation.

Experimenting with Activated Carbon

Riley Nelson

Yesterday I had a surprisingly very productive day.  The filter I had receieved in the mail was accidentally broken, so I had to figure out what to do before a new one came.  The answer was literally lying right in front of me.  All over the floor were these black particles.  At first I was alarmed thinking some toxic chemical was scattered all over the floor, but then I realized that it must be perfectly harmless if it were part of a water filter.  Thankfully, about half of a cup of the carbon was resting peacefully in an unbroken section of the clay.  I was able to gather those particles up to use for experiments.


Initial observations: The activated carbon is black in color.  It has no odor, and feels like sand.  After doing some research I learned that hospitals sometimes use it with patients who have overdosed on something (mostly drugs) because it absorbs foreign contaminents (like the bacteria in contaminated water).  I tried a little pinch of it, and discovered that it had no taste and was very crunchy.  The feeling was like getting a faceful of sand at the beach.


Experiments:  I was able to perform four different experiments.  The first thing I did to the carbon was attempt to burn it.  I stress the word attempt here because this did not work out very well.  Absolutely nothing happened when a flame was submerged into the particles.  This was somewhat of a disappointment, but I kept experimenting.  The next thing I did was mix a little bit of water into the particles, and then I froze it.  I was hoping that this would ellicit some sort of reaction, but nothing unusual happened.  Next, I gathered a cup of water from a dirty puddle outside and tried to clean it using the carbon.    I cut a whole at the bottom of a plastic cup and then lined it with a paper towel.  I then poured a good amount of the remaining carbon on top of the paper towel.  The first time I poured the puddle into the cup, the water came out just as dirty on the other side.  I then put a cloth liner before the graphene before pouring in the puddle a sceond time.  This seemed to help the cleaning process tremendously as the water came out pretty clear on the other side.  This gave me hope for the outcome of the water in the filter I make.  The final experiment I did was to add red food coloring to the activated carbon.  I was curious to see if the carbon would absorb the red color as well.  It might have done so slightly, but nothing really changed on the paper towel.  I would have liked to have done more experiments to the activated carbon, (boil it, pressurize it, send eletric waves through it, etc.) but this was all I had time for.


Klara Ingersoll

We worked on improving our design to speed up the pumping process. We are adding a piece that moves up and down somewhat below the bottle, with part of it inside the bottle. It is a pipe attached to a circular platform weighing down int the water and a float keeping it afloat. This will have a one way valve that opens when the water is coming up but closes when it is coming down only allowing the water to flow out. This moves on it's own SEPERATE to the bottle, forcing a whole lot more water out. 

Building the First Prototype

Riley Nelson

On Thursday I began to model and build my first prototype.  I came up with many different ideas beofre finally designing a feasible model.  I am going to incorporate a few different elements into the product.  For starters, an atom thick sheet of graphene with microscopic holes will still be the center piece of the entire system.  The top of the filter will have a strainer to extract some of the bigger clumps of dirt, seaweed, etc.  The water will then go through the graphene, removing any salt and certain strands of bacteria.  The water then goes through the final filtering system, which will be an average clay filter thats weeds out any other live bacteria and disease.  All of the elements I just mentioned are built into a canister which is then screwed onto the top of a bucket.  Presumably, the system would stay screwed on until it needs fixing, so no bacteria would be able to get into the already clean water.  There would be a spigot at the bottom of the bucket to extract the water.  This is initial working model, and I'm sure some changes will have to be made.


Max Ingersoll

Yesterday we looked at Giancarlo's simulation that he made for our group. We found out some important things, for example before we looked at the simulation we thought that the most effective thing to do was pump the coldest water to the surface of the ocean, but the simulation showed that if the water is too cold (5ºC-20ºC) it will be to heavy and will fall right back from where it came from without doing any cooling. We dicovered found out that that the perfect temperature for the water is 21.5ºC because it is cold enough to cool the surface water but not so cold that it sinks so fast that it does no cooling. Another important discovery is that if the water is traveling less than 3 meters per second it will also sink and not spread over the surface.

Self Destruction!

Kate Reed

Yesterday we had our prototype working great, but as we continued to improve it today, it slowly started to self-destruct. It is a little frustrating, because when we start fixing one aspect of it, another falls apart.

Currently we have all the parts of the prototype, just not put together.  While half of the team puts the prototype back together, the other half is making a logo for our pump and working on the presentation.  I think our priority should be getting the prototype done. If we don't have a prototype built to present, the Powerpoint and logo will be useless.


Initial Sketches

Riley Nelson

These are my intial sketches, notes, research, and possible prototype designs.

Before and After

Riley Nelson

Creating an Affordable Water Desalination Filter

Riley Nelson

Today I had a breakthrough in my research.  I discovered the invention of graphene with microscopic holes in it that filters out salt from saltwater.  This material would be the heart of my prototype as removing salt from saltwater is normally a very complicated process.  The molecularly modified graphene could potentially solve the world's water problems.  My prototype consists of two main parts.  The first one is the actual canister that actually purifies the water.  This canister is about a foot tall with a six inch diameter.  Onn the top there isa piece of cloth that goes across the entire opening.  This can be changed however often the user wishes.  Its purpose is to filter out the big clumps of durt, seaweed, or whatever else might be in the water. The second level of filteration is the graphene itself.  This will filter out the salt content and possibly more (waiting for a response from a researcher I emailed).  The third filteration level is the store bought filter that filters out disease and other bacteria.  This is the biggesrt filter (10 inches tall).  It screws into the next piece of the filteration system, which is the bucket provided to the consumer with the purchase of the system.  There are three bupossible bucket sizes to buy: 5 gallon, 2 gallon, and 10 gallon.  The top piece of the filteration system will work with any of the bucket sizes.  Hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to start modelling.

New Prototype

Klara Ingersoll

Our last prototype was not very efficient because it didn't get enough of the surface water to flow through the tube into the lower layers of water. The transfer process was through a 1 inch long diameter pipe and was not effective enough. Additionally, the top foam-float cut out bowl shape which was to catch the surface water was not large enough. We drafted a new prototype conisiting of a wide cylindal shape made out of a foam float ring on top holding up a plastic bag with a wire aronund the bottom, to weigh it down. This would hopefully catch a lot more of the surface water which splashed into the device and replace it with cooler water.