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New tech combats drought

Tech Launch saves water and generates energy with easy to install Hexocover

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Courtesy of Nathan Barba

UA researchers have developed technology to combat evaporation. The technology works to lessen the overall environmental impact of operations that work to replace water.

Hexocover, a new technology supported by Tech Launch Arizona, was designed to prevent the evaporation of water and use solar power to generate energy.

Robert Sleeper, the UA College of Engineering licensing manager with Tech Launch Arizona, said he licensed the Hexocover to the company RePower Design, which is run by Nathan Barba, a co-inventor.

Hexocover is made up of  4-inch plastic balls that are “sandwiched” between two pieces of plastic, said Nathan Barba, managing partner of RePower Design and an Arizona State University student. 

These modules are connected and topped with hexagonal shapes that are used on solar panels.

The Hexocover technology is easy to install and can be deployed to cover any open body of water where it’s important to save water from evaporation, said Moe Momayez, co-inventor of Hexocover and associate professor in the department of mining and geological engineering.

“The best environment to deploy this would be in Southwest U.S. or anywhere else where you have a semi-arid climate with a lot of evaporation,” Momayez said. “The evaporation rate in Arizona is in excess of 100 to 105 inches per each year.”

The Hexocover is a very cost effective method of stopping evaporation, Barba said. He and Momayez agreed that there was a need to prevent water evaporation due to climate change and significant drought in places such as California and Texas.

“If we could make a dent in some of the water loss some of the cities and municipalities are dealing with, we think that could make a huge impact,” Barba said.

Momayez added that they experimented with this design for almost 18 months, and the results have been promising.

“I can tell you that if you cover a body of water with this product to about 85-87 percent coverage, you reduce water evaporation in excess of 80 percent,” Momayez said.

Andrew Falwell, program director for ASUA Students for Sustainability and a chemical engineering junior, said when he first heard about Hexocover, he thought it was a brilliant idea; it has a simple shape and concept, but it’s still powerful.

“It makes me really happy to see that we continue to succeed in the field of water conservation and hydrology,” Falwell said. “This sort of project really helps us maintain that role as world leaders in hydrology and geology. I think all UA students should be extremely proud that we have this type of research going on here.”

Licenses for university-owned intellectual property assets attract and retain the very best investors, students and professors to the UA because they see success, Sleeper added.

“Tech Launch’s mission is to improve the economy in and around Tucson and the state of Arizona by making some sort of economic impact,” he said.

Momayez said he was working on a project on installing and monitoring the performance of floatable tank solar panels on mine tailings. He then noticed the ponds forming in tailing ponds as the tailings were being deposited.

“It wasn’t that much of a leap to think to go beyond what I was doing,” Momayez said. “That’s where the idea came from.”

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