Thursday, 13 August 2015

Hi-Tech Showering System uses 70% Less Water. Did the Inventors Know about Bucky's Fog Gun?

A new showering system that uses 70% less water brings to mind a concept from the 1930s

A few days ago,  I learnt from Inhabitat about a new showering system, currently being crowdfunded, called Nebia, which uses tiny droplets of water, rather than the continuous stream used in normal showers. It's claimed that it produces a "warm cosy mist"and a more enjoyable showering experience, and because droplets have a greater surface area than streams of water, more of the water comes into contact with your body, resulting in more efficient cleaning, with 70% less water than a normal shower.

Here is their promotional video

In fact I had come across this concept previously, and even tried out a sort of simple prototype.

Buckminster Fuller, the architect, inventor and visionary, best known for the geodesic dome, had thought of something similar many years ago.

While serving in the US Navy, he noticed that wind-driven fog kept the topsides of the ships clean, and his face as well. It even cleaned the grease off his hands. From this experience, he conceived the Fog Gun, which would use compressed air to propel atomised droplets of water and which could be used instead of a shower.

Bucky, as he was known, first wrote about this in his 1938 book Nine Chains to the Moon, so the idea is pretty old, but I haven't found any record of prototypes being made or tested. If you're interested in the Fog Gun, there's more about it here.

I read about it in the 1980s in one of his other books, I forget which, and I wasn't the only one. On a sailing trip up the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the owner of the boat had on board a garden sprayer, the sort of thing used for spraying insecticide, with a hand pump to pressurise the air inside the liquid container, and a nozzle at the end of a hose that sent out a fine stream of atomised water, something like the one in the picture below. He had read about the fog gun too.

Did it work? As I recall, not well enough to be a substitute for a proper wash, but it didn't generate the high pressures described by Bucky.

The makers of the Nebia shower have clearly spent a lot of time developing their product. The method of creating the atomised droplets derives from very modern technology used in rocket engines and medical devices. Unlike Bucky's design, it plugs into a normal shower system and does not use compressed air, so in that respect it's simpler

There are enormous environmental benefits to having showers that use less water. The Nebia is a new product and rather expensive, but if it works, and if similar products could be made cheaply in future, that would be wonderful. It would also, incidentally, be rather useful at sea, on boats and ships that need to carry their own water and use it carefully.

Shall I back the product and get one? It's a bit pricey, but I can't say that I'm not tempted.

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