New, slippery toilet coating provides cleaner flushing, saves water

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Penn State researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters. Credit: Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, Penn State

Every day, more than 141 billion liters of water are used solely to flush toilets. With millions of global citizens experiencing water scarcity, what if that amount could be reduced by 50%?

The possibility may exist through research conducted at Penn State, released today (Nov. 18) in Nature Sustainability.

“Our team has developed a robust bio-inspired, liquid, sludge- and bacteria-repellent coating that can essentially make a toilet self-cleaning,” said Tak-Sing Wong, Wormley Early Career Professor of Engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

In the Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, housed within the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Research Institute, researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters.

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Chinese PhDs and MBAs give up city life for farming, driven by desire to improve agriculture and livelihoods

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  • Millions of educated Chinese have left cities to become farmers, inspired to change agriculture or disenchanted with the pressures of urban life
  • They practise organic farming and water conservation, hoping to set an example for fellow farmers, and revive traditional technique

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Award-winning robot travels through water pipes to detect leaks

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It sounds unbelievable, but each day around 20 percent of clean water produced in the world is lost as the result of leaky pipes. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, this amounts to an estimated 6 billion gallons of clean water per day in the U.S. alone. The problem is exacerbated by current detection technology, which means that most of the leaks are either not found or discovered too late, after they’ve already caused sinkholes and burst pipes.

A new soft robot may be able to help, however — and it’s just netted the 2018 James Dyson Award, a design competition to celebrate up-and-coming inventors. The award-winning creation is the work of recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doctoral graduate You Wu. Called Lighthouse, the low-cost bot is designed to travel through water pipes on the hunt for leaks before they turn into major problems.

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