Would you like some powdered water with that?

Dry Water!

Military Intelligence!

Honest Politicians!

Amateur Expert!

Living Dead!

You get the idea. 

How the heck does one make dry water?  Well, they cheat, sort of.  The powdered water is one drop of “wet” water surrounded by modified silica.  So the water itself isn’t powdered, but it’s stored in a way that keeps the water droplets from coalescing.

Did I mention that the headlines about this story are pun-ishingly horrible?  “Dry water making waves!” “Dry water could make a splash commercially”  *shudder*

I heard about this story on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (SGU – episode #267) in the Science or Fiction segment.  Several news sources have done a decent job of summarizing the American Chemical Society (ACS) presentation by Dr. Ben Carter (a researcher for study lead, Dr. Andrew Cooper) .  

According to Science 2.0 silica-encapsulated water was first discovered in 1968 by the cosmetic industry.  An article in Scientific American describes the “discovery” of a process to create dry water by coating water in a “hydrophobic powder” in 2001.  It sounds like the technology has been here for a while, but we haven’t yet figured out what to do with it. 

The current focus is on developing dry water technology for use in commercial applications and perhaps in carbon dioxide absorption, which could be useful for that little global warming problem we’re not dealing with.

From an ACS news release:

BOSTON, Aug. 25, 2010 — An unusual substance known as “dry water,” which resembles powdered sugar, could provide a new way to absorb and store carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The powder shows bright promise for a number of other uses, they said. It may, for instance, be a greener, more energy-efficient way of jump-starting the chemical reactions used to make hundreds of consumer products. Dry water also could provide a safer way to store and transport potentially harmful industrial materials.

and later in the article:

Dry water was discovered in 1968 and got attention for its potential use in cosmetics. Scientists at the University of Hull, U.K. rediscovered it in 2006 in order to study its structure, and Cooper’s group at the University of Liverpool has since expanded its range of potential applications.

One of the most recent involves using dry water as a storage material for gases, including carbon dioxide. In laboratory-scale research, Cooper and co-workers found that dry water absorbed over three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time. This ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide gas as a hydrate could make it useful in helping to reduce global warming, the scientists suggested.

Cooper and colleagues demonstrated in previous studies that dry water is also useful for storing methane, a component of natural gas, and may help expand its use as a future energy source. In particular, they hope that engineers can use the powder to collect and transport stranded deposits of natural gas.

It sounds like things are proceeding along…

…swimmingly!

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