Posts Tagged ‘desalination’

Keeping the (Water) Glass Half Full

Friday, August 13th, 2010

drinking water

If you’re like most of us, you probably take it for granted that tomorrow morning you’ll get up and take a hot shower. And you’ll head to Starbucks (or your coffee shop of choice) for your morning brew. You also might throw a quick load of laundry in the washer or hose down your dusty car.

And if you’re like most of us, you probably won’t think twice about the amount of water that all of these routine activities require. Even more surprising, the water you actually see in the shower, in your coffee cup or in your washing machine represents only a fraction of your use. Consider, for example, that producing a single sheet of paper requires about 2.5 gallons of water, while production of a day’s worth of food requires hundreds of gallons.

And though it may seem plentiful from our standpoint, fresh water is, in fact, in short supply throughout many areas of the world. Even certain areas of the United States, particularly in Florida and other areas of the South, as well as California, have dangerously low supplies of drinkable water at their disposal.

To help address these shortages, many governments and businesses are turning to a water treatment technology called desalination, in which salty sea water is transformed into fresh, clean drinkable water. In this week’s episode, Linda Correia of the Aquaria Water desalination facility in Massachusetts told us that this is a rapidly growing field with tremendous career opportunities. An article last October in Fortune magazine pointed out that there are currently 1,500 desalination facilities in the U.S., and that the $30 billion industry is expected to double in capacity by 2016.

Here are some more facts about this thirst-quenching technology:

*Saline water is defined as water that contains a significant amount of dissolved salt. Measurements are expressed in “parts per million,” with fresh water containing less than 1,000 ppm while ocean water contains about 35,000 ppm of salt.

*Desalination is actually an ancient science — civilizations have used this water treatment process to convert sea water to drinking water aboard their ships

*There are two main ways to desalinate water: The first is called thermal technology (or distillation) and involves turning water into steam and leaving the salt behind. This method is effective but it’s also expensive, both in dollars and in energy usage. The second method is called reverse osmosis, which is a filtering process that’s cheaper — in both cost and energy expenditure. Check out this U.S. Geological Survey website to learn more about how how salt is removed from sea water.

*According to the International Desalination Association, the market continues to grow, with “more desalination plants with more capacity brought online during the past year than ever before.”

*What makes for a good job fit in this field? Aquaria Water’s Linda Correira told ATETV that she looks for employees who are analytical and detail-oriented, in addition to having a basic understanding of water treatment processes. And Water Treatment Technology student Mike Poitras pointed out that the field requires a lot of data collection, and some equipment maintenance (maintaining valves and pumps, for example).

*To learn more about educational opportunities in this field, you might start with these programs: Gateway Community College; Linn-Benton Community College; and Mountain Empire Community College and/or check in with your local community college to find out more about what is available near you.

Remember, fresh water will always be in demand. And evolving water treatment technologies such as desalination will help ensure that the glass stays half full.

ATETV Episode 45: Safeguarding the Future

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

This week, we look at the many ways that emerging technologies are protecting our futures — from supplying safe, clean drinking water and new energy sources to guarding our computer information.

In our first segment, Linda Correira of Aquaria Water, LLC, describes how Water Treatment Technology systems successfully treat salt water and turn it into clean, thirst-quenching drinking water.

“Everyone needs water and we have limited supplies [on earth]” explains Linda. “But if you have the ability to take salt water — which we have much more of — and convert it into drinking water, then there’s [an important resource.]” As Linda further explains, the desalination process puts salt water through a treatment process to remove any bacteria and then salty, high-conductivity water goes through a “reverse osmosis” system to remove dissolved salts. From there, water is disinfected and — voila! — the glass is half full of drinkable water.

In our second segment, we talk with a student at Springfield Technical Community College whose work in the school’s Information Security Program will have an impact on lots and lots of people.

“[Almost all of your personal information] is stored on a computer system somewhere,” explains Sean Coughlin. “People might think, ‘Oh, I don’t use online banking, I don’t put my credit card information into websites, so [computer security issues] don’t affect me.’” But, in fact, says Sean, everyone is affected because businesses put their information on computer systems — and your information is their information.

The growing need for Cyber Security professionals, and a lifelong love of computers, has brought Sean from an 18-year career as a commercial flooring contractor to a new “position” as an Information Security student at Springfield. And he couldn’t be more satisfied. “Every single job you look at, [employers] want to see that you have experience in addition to classroom work. [Through the program at Springfield Technical College] I’ve actually worked on devices and reconfigured them…that’s the solid foundation that employers want to see.”

Finally, in our third segment, we take a look at the cutting-edge field of Fuel Cell Technology and learn how students at Stark State College are not only responding to industry needs — they’re staying ahead of them!

“A student who studies fuel cells is going to have a wide range of opportunities available when he graduates,” says Justin Ruflin of Contained Energy, LLC. “Fuel cell technicians are needed within the lab itself to help build the technology, while scientists are busy figuring out how to solve the challenges within the fuel cell industry and managers are running the companies.” So whether a person is interested in building fuel cells, understanding the properties of fuel cells or creating new materials to increase fuel cell performance, there’s likely to be a job opportunity available — and it’s likely to be a good-paying job offering employees a lot of responsibility.

ATETV Episode 30: Looking at the Future from a New Angle

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

This week, we look at the ways that ATE programs are helping community college students to see themselves in new roles, and the way that one program is looking at the future from a 3-D perspective!

In our first segment, we talk with Julia Mitchell, a student at Central Piedmont Community College, who has used her interest in maps as a jumping-off point toward a new career.

“I had always worked in administrative office management, and I was looking for a change in jobs,” explains Julia.”Being able to work with maps is something I’d always found interesting.”

And through the Geographical Information Systems [GIS] program at Central Piedmont, Julia is transitioning from a one-dimensional office position to a three-dimensional career perspective. “I’ve taken a variety of other college classes but never completed a full degree program. Now, I’m doing 3-D work with mapping and it’s very interesting.” Julia is currently working as a trainee in the field, and can look ahead to other fields where 3-D mapping is used, including architecture, engineering, drafting and design.

All of these fields emphasize CAD. So, what, exactly, is CAD? In our second segment, we answer that question.

“CAD stands for Computer Aided Design,” explains Laura Lemire of the Community College of Baltimore County. And through CAD, technicians are able to create three-dimensional models to build the likeness of a product, enabling them to look at the model from all angles.

“With CAD, companies benefit from lower product development costs and a shortened design cycle,” adds Laura. CAD is just one example of a high-tech application that’s in demand and that is being taught at community colleges.

In our third segment, we visit with Mike Poitras, a student at Bristol Community College. Like Julia, Mike decided that it was time for a career change.

“I drove trucks,” says Mike. “I thought that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life.” But then, at age 38, Mike decided that he was looking for more than a job — he wanted to pursue a career that he would truly enjoy.

So, he entered the Environmental Sciences program at Bristol Community College, where he discovered that studying Water Treatment Technology offered him a world of career opportunities. “Water is depleting all over the world and we just have more and more need for fresh drinking water,” says Mike. And although it had been 20 years since Mike studied math and chemistry, he found that with the tutoring and other support provided through Bristol, he was able to quickly get up to speed.

Fast forward four years, and today Mike is working at a desalination plant, an opportunity that emerged through Bristol’s internship program. And, as Mike told us, he was expecting to get his water treatment license within a couple of weeks of our meeting.

“My father always used to tell me that if you like what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. Well [since switching careers], I haven’t worked a day yet.”