Water distilling tests

Bloffy13

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Going out with Army Cadets for a survival exercise on weekend after ANZAC day so have been upskilling and revisiting old skills to get myself up to scratch.
Something I have never tried before is creating a still so I grabbed an empty Milo tin, punched a cross shape in the top with my Mora, bent the sharp edges back and poked just the end of about a metre of 1/2 inch clear tubing through the hole.
Filled it with rain water and put it on the BBQ vegie pot burner (We've still got fire restrictions here. I am praying for good rains before the training weekend so we'll be able to have fires.)

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Within minutes started producing water. Gave it about 30 minutes before pulling it off. Had about 3/4 cup of hot water.
Drank this when it cooled and it was ok so then I added about a good handful of table salt to the Milo tin water and restarted the test.
Same result with good, drinkable water after 30 minutes therefore mission successful.
Thought I would try cooling it down by placing the cup in a half plastic juice bottle full of water. Result: A hot half plastic juice bottle full of water.

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Next I tried a baking tin full of cold water, with the pipe running through it. Still a lot of steam escaping but water production a bit better.

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Took the top of the juice bottle and positioned it on a slight angle over the top of the cup so escaping steam would condense on the plastic and run back down into the cup. Not a lot of extra water produced but in a sur@#$%l situation every drop counts.

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Would love to be able to increase the rate of return for energy expended. Ideas people?
Next, I thought, I rarely ever find random Milo tins with a good lid in the bush but I nearly always carry a stainless steel water bottle. So same set up but this time with my water bottle sealed by a bandana-sized piece of cotton material, slightly offset so I could get a decent seal.

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Within minutes I was producing water.
This is my EDC bottle so I didn't want to take the chance of ruining it by adding salt but, with the earlier success, I don't think it will be a problem.
So, all up I was able to produce about three(ish) cups of water (About 200ml ea) in about two hours, using the BBQ.
I don't know if in the bush it would be any better. Hopefully I will be able to find out. Will post my results when I do.
The location is a disused farm which has not had stock on it for more than 20 years. It runs alongside a brackish river which I plan to use for drinking water using this method.
Due to issues with youth photos and social media I won't be able to post any of the cadets in action but I will endeavour to get some of their shelters etc without anyone in them. They are pretty creative when given the opportunity. Last year I was highly impressed with their ingenuity.
I plan on coat camping the weekend unless it is absolutely pelting down.
I'll take my Mora and my Opinel #7, a ferro rod, a length of hootchie cord TBA, a length of plastic tubing, my water bottle and an old, small Hennessy Hammock hootchie (as a back-up) and whatever minor stuff I can fit in my pockets. I plan on carrying most of the "other" stuff in an old dixie can set which fit easily in my pants pocket.
I will have my pack and webbing on hand just in case but plan on not using it.
There are a couple of senior cadets and another leader who are taking on the challenge as well.
Because of the numbers going we won't be hunting or gathering but we will be cooking in the field (fires pending), and maybe a bit of fishing.
The cadets will have a few more luxuries but will limit it to their skill level. The better their skills, the less they will have.
It will be interesting to see how we go.
Yet another opus by Bloffy.
Cheers
Bloffy
 

Thrud

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Thanks Bloffy, very interesting to see the yields you achieved. I guess that the greater the temp difference, the greater the condensation. Not sure what the effect of changing the diameter of the tubing would be. I guess if you were able to cool a larger surface area of tubing the yield would be higher. Be interesting to know what the starting mass of water versus the mass of water in the juice was, to give some idea of efficiency.

Doc will know all the physics!

Good luck with the coat camping....useful research for the WA meet. Cheers
 

Wentworth

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That's excellent Bloffy, I've never tried this, mainly because I wasn't sure how I'd seal the tubing to the salt water container. Very inventive
 

BjornJ

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Great stuff, thanks for sharing.
I would imagine a big improvement in the cooling and collection rate could be achieved if finding a material with better heat-transferring qualities than plastic tubing.
Not sure how easy (or realistic) it would be to do this with a piece of copper or steel pipe, not something you tend to carry around I guess :)

But that would make the cooling coil transfer more heat into the liquid around the pipe, probably leading to little or not loss to steam coming out the other end?

thanks
Bjorn
 

silverback

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Bloffy, how would it go spiralling the tube around a stick and covering it with a wet cloth. I think I read somewhere that drinking distilled water for any length of time could cause problems with draining needed salts from the body. Any one else with knowledge of that?.
 

Greatbloke

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Great job, Bloffy. I am also surprised that you were able to produce a decent amount of distilled water so quickly.

When reading this I thought of using the aluminum frame of my rucksack in an emergency.

Silverback, I think your idea with the coiled tube and wet cloth is good.

Moonshiners always have the copper coil on their distillers, I guess there could be some tips to be picked up from them.
 

silverback

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Bloffy, how would it go spiralling the tube around a stick and covering it with a wet cloth.
I think I read somewhere that drinking distilled water for any length of time could cause problems with draining needed salts from the body. Any one else with knowledge of that?.
WOW,that opens up a can of worms, I just did a quick google and depending on which page you read distilled water will cause an early death or it will enable you to live a long life:88_:. one other thing that was bought up was leaching of dangerous chemicals from plastic tubing.
But-if your looking to save your life in an emergency situation anything goes I suppose.
sorry for the double post guys
 
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Dusty Miller

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If you have a litre of clean water, you can condense 140 mL worth of steam in it without loss by putting the tube end well under the water surface. Heat is transferred to the liquid very efficiently. The water will get hotter until it reaches boiling point, then you have to stop. Wrap a wet towel around the container and you can increase the amount of heat you dump into it before you need to stop. Do the same every hour after it cools down again and you can get a few litres a day.

If you are losing steam out the end of your condenser you can decrease the heat input (smaller fire, less contact with fire) to stop the loss too. Thinner tube walls are better at transferring heat. Smaller diameter tubes have more surface area for the volume passed through, so cool better, but need to be large enough to prevent pressure build up inn the boiling vessel. Flattening the tube can help this too. Higher conductivity materials (like copper) are better. Higher temperature differential between steam and cooling air or water is better (the steam is fixed pretty much, but you can make the outside cooler as Silverback suggested.) The non distilled water could make a good heat sink too, depending on quantity available.
 
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Bloffy13

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Thanks guys, that's wonderful.
I didn't put it in the original post but I did drape a damp Chux wipes over it but it dried pretty quick.
Maybe a combination of Silverback's tube wrap idea with a piece of cotton material draped in a container of water like a Coolgardie safe might work. Either a wet shirt or a shemagh could be used.
I'm not sure about the drinking of distilled water but I would take that chance in the short term if it meant su#$%al.
I used food grade hose. It got pretty hot but not to melting point. I chose that against a solid pipe as it is readily portable.
A smaller fire is a good idea.
If I get a chance on the weekend, I will try again with some of those ideas. When I go bush I plan on using a Dakota fire so I should have a fair bit of control.
Cheers
Bloffy
 

rurik

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The idea of the tube is to cool the vapor(in this case water) below its boiling point therefore turning it back into a liquid. By cooling the vapor another way say by running cooled water around the outside of the tube; alls you do is cool the vapor quicker and can reduce the length of tube required. By the same token if your are willing to carry a longer tube there is not need to cool it as the air around it will do it.
 

Aussie123

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To generalize: Steam is 101 C. To get steam to condense, you just need to get it “1 degree” below the vapour point and it will condense ie at 99 C steam will turn to water!

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to get the steam super cooled to get it to condense, you just need to cool it a little.

What you do need is a way to cool a lot of steam, just a little bit. An effective way to do that is with a long condenser.

A condenser should effectively remove the heat from the steam and transfer it to the outside “cooler” environment. “Plastics” are not good at transferring heat, so they are not good condensers, as already mentioned, copper, or even stainless steel, is several orders of magnitude better at this task than plastic. So a short section of copper pipe would be more effective at transferring heat, than a much longer plastic pipe.

One “problem” is that the copper will quickly heat up – which is actually NOT a problem at all, because it means that heat is being removed from the steam and its starting to condense. The challenge then is to keep the copper cool. People often do this by immersing the copper in water (usually gently flowing), so that the copper stays cool. You can cool the copper pipe with any available water, because you’re cooling the “outside” it doesn’t matter if it is clean or dirty water (assuming everything is sealed).

There is no real “magic” in a copper coil, its just that its a convenient way to manage a very long piece of pipe, and also lends itself to being put in a water barrel etc for water cooling (as mentioned, these barrels usually have slow flowing water)

Wrapping a damp rag around your condenser is a good thing, but with the amount of heat being produced it will quickly dry out, so you need to keep it constantly wet; (I guess the ultimate way to do this is by immersion in a barrel and slowly feeding in that “cool” water)

Would you consider a short section (or two) of copper ?
 

Bloffy13

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Aussie 123. Thanks for that. I understand the principle around the copper pipe and yes definitely a better condenser. It's a bit unwieldy. Plastic tube is flexible, lightweight, and can be used as a siphon, a transfer tube, possibly even an emergency torniquet. I like things to multi task if I can.
Cheers
Bloffy
 

Ticklebellly

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I made a distilling device by using a champagne cork as a stopper in a SS water bottle and then pushing a right angle of copper tube through the cork. I have a length of surgical tubing (silicon) to put on the end of the copper tube. The cork idea is sufficient to ensure internal pressure in the bottle is never dangerous. I was surprised at just how long it takes to distill 600 ml or so over a small twig fire. However, in the emergency situation, who cares how long it might take?

For those who like to play, I found a 6 cup espresso coffee maker at the cheap shop recently. Pretty thin all round so does not weigh much at all. I notice that you could easily take the upper chamber off with a cutting disk on an angle grinder. The boiling chamber is then left with a spigot out the top you could plumb sideways to a collection cup. I did not measure the volume of the boiling chamber but estimate about the 300 ml.

TB
 
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