PM Modi
PM Modi

On Friday, the Ministry of Earth Sciences backed PM Modi’s idea to generate water from moisture in air and separating oxygen from air saying they were ‘technically feasible’.

They said they challenge will be taken up. PM Modi’s comment two days ago was mocked by Rahul Gandhi on Twitter who likened PM Modi to an Emperor without clothes.

A battle is on between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over a question of science.

The battle started after Rahul mocked PM Modi for suggesting in an interaction with CEO of a global wind energy company whether water can be extracted from air through wind energy.

Both sides, BJP and Congress took to Twitter to attack and troll each other.
"The real danger to India isn't that our PM doesn't understand. It's the fact that nobody around him has the guts to tell him," Rahul said in a tweet attaching the video of PM Modi interacting with Henrik Anderson, President and CEO, Vestas.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal waded into the controversy slamming Rahul for being ignorant. "Nobody around Rahul Gandhi has the guts to tell him that he doesn't understand. He mocks PM @NarendraModi's ideas when CEO of the world's leading company endorses them."

Goyal went on to add a link from a foreign media house citing water extraction from wind.

BJP IT Cell Head, Amit Malviya called Rahul, an "Entitled Brat" and "Clueless". "There is no cure for ignorance and entitlement. Entitled brat Rahul thinks everyone around the world is as clueless as he is..."He mocks PM's ideas when CEO of world's leading wind energy company terms them inspirational! Watch the last bit of the video he himself has posted."

Vestas CEO after hearing PM Modi had smiled and said that his ideas will challenge the company's scientists and invited PM Modi to visit the company in Denmark.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra also mocked Rahul for "non-functioning mental turbines". "Rahulji tomorrow morning please get up at night & read the two scientific papers that I have attached herewith. Though I'm sure you won't understand the complexity of the subject looking at the condition of your non functioning mental "Turbines"!!". Patra also added links from journals which showed that wind turbines can create water from thin air.

Is Modi right or Rahul? Now PM Modi asked two specific things based on wind turbines – whether it could be used to create clean drinking water, particularly in coastal areas and whether this turbine could be used for the separation of oxygen from the said turbine and do it parallelly.

He wondered if the same turbine could be used to manufacture oxygen. He then asked if all three – clean drinking water, oxygen supply and energy – be manufactured from one windmill.

Question 1) Can one generate clean drinking water from wind turbines?

Now there’s no doubt that a turbine can produce clean drinking water. In 2012, Eole Water had designed a prototype which could be used to produce 62 litres of water an hour. It worked in the same way electricity was generated from wind turbines. The next stage would see air sucked in which is directed towards a cooling compressor situated through propellers, which extracts humidity form the air, creates moisture which is then condensed and collected. It is later transferred through stainless pipes and could create 1000 litres of water a day. However, the major objection at that time was the cost which in 2012 was around 500,000 euros.

Conclusion: Clean drinking water can be created from wind turbines, but the only issue is the cost factor. There’s no doubt that one type of turbine could take care of both power and water needs.

Question 2) Can one generate oxygen from a wind turbine?

Technically speaking, it’s possible to extract oxygen from air through fractional distillation. There are several processes including fractional distillation, cryogenic distillation processes and others where it’s possible to extract oxygen from the air through fractional distillation.

Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts which is usually done by heating it to a certain temperature. Fractional distillation of air, which consists of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen can be done by ‘fractional distillation of liquid air’.

Air is filtered and cooled until it reaches -200°C. When air liquefies, water vapour condenses and is removed with filters. Carbon dioxide freezes at -79°C, oxygen at - 183°C and nitrogen at -196°C. The liquid air and nitrogen are then separated.

Air separation can also be done by cryogenic distillation process.The second method is the way astronauts breathe in space. Astronauts bring oxygen from earth and then make oxygen by running electricity through water, in a process called electrolysis.

In fact, the International Space Station’s water recycling system produces drinking water from waste and other discarded liquids including urine.

Astronauts use electrolysis to split oxygen from water and maintain the oxygen supply on the International Space Station. The leftover hydrogen is then mixed with carbon dioxide to produce water and methane a process called the Sabatier Reaction.

The methane is discarded into space while the water is drunk. It’s still not clear how oxygen can be manufactured from a said turbine. Now it’s also important to note that one can’t survive on pure oxygen.

Conclusion: While it could be done theoretically in the same turbine, but it does seem rather hard to achieve or perhaps that’s what PM Modi was asking.

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Free Press Journal