Dune: Towards the Still Suit

One of the most fascinating pieces in Frank Herbert’s SF epic, Dune, is the still suit. This is a suit composed of semi-permeable membranes that takes the body’s sweat and purifies it, supplying the wearer with drinking water. Thus clothed, he or she can survive weeks out in the dry wastes of the desert planet. It came closer to reality yesterday, when Swedish scientists created a device that can turn sweat from clothes into drinking water. The device spins the clothes to release the sweat, which it then filters, distils and purifies. The BBC’s report into it can be read here

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23360907

The machine was produced to provoke public awareness of the importance of drinking water in the developing world. It’s makers state that it will never be put into production, as there are better ways of purifying water, such as water purification pills. Nevertheless, if the purification process used could be combined with a type of garment permeated with channels to hold and circulate water, something like Dune’s stillsuit would be produced. Astronauts already where something similar in their water-cooled undergarment, which regulates their temperature during space walks. And if a stillsuit could be produced affordably, it would allow greater human exploration and exploitation of Earth’s deserts, like the Sahara, Namibian and Gobi.

Spacesuit

Astronaut’s watercooled undersuit

Source: Michael Freeman, Space Traveller’s Handbook (London: Hamlyn 1979)

With that technology, we could be a small step closer to the time, when no-one should die for lack of water.

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