Water is a precious commodity and to that end the ancient world even worshipped it. The Egyptians had Osiris the God of Water, the Greeks had Poseidon the Ruler of the Sea and the Romans had Juturna the Goddess of Springs/Water. There have been prayers said to stop rain, to start rain and even to part seas. In our modern times water is still an issue as so much of the world are without clean drinking water which is responsible for many deaths, large parts of the world are without water and an equal part are inundated with the stuff at unexpected moments leading to flooding becoming an increasing problem.
Water is a very powerful commodity and has been used as the source of much muscle for generating electricity and powering many machines. It has also inspired products of industrial design that use this natural source as a driving force.
An alarm clock is now being marketed that runs on water. Two small reservoirs are filled with water and use electrolytes to generate the small amount of electricity needed. There is also a satellite navigation device that is powered by a fuel cell that runs on methanol. At three times the energy produced than four AA batteries and up to sixty hours of usage this handy little product of industrial design even comes with a USB port for charging mobile phones or mp3 players.
Fuel cell technology is the way forward when it comes to industrial design of the future. A liquid fuel powered mobile phone and a water powered battery that can run for two years before it needs re-fuelling are about to be launched. Lugging around spare batteries could soon be a thing of the past for photographers with Mobion working on a prototype methanol fuel cell for cameras.
Thanks to inventiveness from the realms of product design we now have the HydroPak. This is a portable fuel cell generator that runs on water and will charge a laptop ten times on a single tank and the ultimate boys toy? The H Racer. A miniature car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. A separate solar powered hydrogen generator uses the power of the sun to split water to produce hydrogen is a clever idea - if only they could apply it to full size cars and avoid having us all at the mercy of the tax man and his petrol prices.
When it comes to the environment, scientists in industrial design are working hard to bring about changes that will ensure lasting benefits. Water is wasted all the time by modern homes and modern gadgets such as washing machines. The average home will use 37 pints of water a day through their washing machine which is a 23 per cent rise in the last 15 years, too much to be acceptable.
Given the above figures, if all households were to invest in one of the new washing machines available then they could be drastically reduced. This machine uses only a cup of water for a full wash, leaving clothes virtually dry and also aiding the environment by reducing the need for tumble driers and the electricity needed to run one.
This energy usage equates to only two per cent of a conventional washing machine and works by using thousands of plastic chips to absorb and remove dirt. Around 44lb of the chips are added to the wash load along with a cup full of heated water. The chips can be re-used up to one hundred times and would last the average family six months, saving billions of litres of water.
Industrial design has bought about significant changes in the way we do things and it is now using all it's know how to put right the damage of previous products. Learning, growing and moving forward can only be a good thing.
Environmental expert Catherine Harvey looks at the industrial design that can assist the environment.