Title:
Massive Scale Rainwater Harvesting and Redistribution
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A high-altitude, modular, robust rainwater harvesting construction is deigned, which is made of strong, lightweight building-block composite materials, for relatively rapid assembly and disassembly. Multiple modular rainwater harvesting constructions can be configured to build a modular, scalable, mobile rainwater collection system for harvesting rainwater at high altitudes and at massive scales. The captured potential energy of harvested rainwater at high altitudes provides the energy required for redistribution of rainwater from regions with high precipitation rate to regions with low precipitation rate. The rainwater harvesting system can be used for onshore and offshore rainwater harvesting, using different proposed configuration to connect the rainwater harvesting modules to the ground or to the sea floor.



Inventors:
Javan, Andre (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Javan, Akbar (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Application Number:
14/487298
Publication Date:
03/17/2016
Filing Date:
09/16/2014
Assignee:
Pluviae LLC (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/745.17
International Classes:
E03B3/02; E02D27/52; E04H12/02; E04H12/20; E04H12/30; E04H12/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MAYO-PINNOCK, TARA LEIGH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pluviae LLC (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Claims:
1. A modular, high-altitude, and scalable Rainwater Harvesting System comprising: a. At least one high-altitude Rainwater Harvesting Module b. Wherein each Rainwater Harvesting Module is modular and made of other building-blocks c. Wherein each building-block is made of strong, lightweight construction material

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the micro-structure of the construction material is honeycomb.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the material of construction includes lignin and recycled plastic.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the material of construction includes other durable, strong materials, including but not limited to metals; metal foils; unreinforced polymers, such as polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, acrylic resins, styrene resins, polyurethanes, polysulfones, and combinations thereof; reinforced polymers, such as polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, acrylic resins, styrene resins, polyurethanes, polysulfones, and combinations thereof, containing mineral filler, carbon fiber, glass fiber, nanomaterials, ceramics and combinations thereof; and combinations thereof.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the building-blocks of a rainwater harvesting module are connected together via spring-loaded connections to provide a flexible structure.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein a self-supported tower is used to provide structural support for the rainwater harvesting module

7. The method of claim 1, wherein a guyed tower is used to provide structural support for the rainwater harvesting module

8. The method of claims 1, 6, and 7, wherein the self-supported tower or guyed tower are built of modular sections connected via spring-loaded connections.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the rainwater harvesting module, is made of, or is coated with, light weight, flexible photovoltaic material.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein energy extraction involves the use of turbines to convert the rainwater kinetic energy to electricity.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein the rainwater harvesting modules are connected to the ground for onshore rainwater harvesting.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein the rainwater harvesting modules are supported by lighter-than-water crafts and are tethered to the sea floor for offshore rainwater harvesting.

13. The method of claims 1, 11, and 12, wherein rainwater harvesting modules are used as platforms and foundations for high altitude wind energy convertors for wind power harvesting.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is in continuation of a U.S. provisional patent application, App. No. 61/953,853, filed on Mar. 16, 2014, entitled Commercial Scale Rainwater Collection and Redistribution, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to use of artificial large scale structures for massive scale rainwater harvesting at high altitudes. More specifically, the present invention pertains to modular, mobile structures for harvesting and redistribution of rainwater.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The world's freshwater resources are unevenly distributed around the planet: over 60% of the Earth's freshwater supply is found in just 10 countries. Severe water stress affects 3 billion people, two-thirds of whom reside in the BRIC countries. Water needs are quickly increasing in emerging economies such as China and India, which together account for nearly 40% of global population and a third of global water demand. Moreover, water resources in many developing countries are becoming heavily polluted and unsuitable for human use. Inadequate water resources could be an impediment to growth as developing nations face rapidly growing demand for food and energy.

The global rainfall is about 500,000 cubic kilometers, 1% of which could sufficiently supply the global water consumption at about 4,000 cubic kilometers. Interestingly, the worldwide precipitation has increased by about 2% in the last century, while distribution of rainfall changes slowly over time, as influenced by the overall global climate factors, which contributes to regional floods and droughts. Hence, one novel solution to the global challenge and need for fresh water is a systematic, manmade, economical collection of rainwater in regions with a high precipitation rate and redistribution of the collected water to regions which do not have access to a sufficient amount of fresh water.

While rainwater harvesting at smaller scales, from small and large buildings' roof tops and in natural and manmade ponds for local use have been used for centuries, redistribution of massive amount of fresh water from one region to another, would require massive amount of energy, which would make such plans prohibitively uneconomical. Furthermore, more than 90% of rainwater occurs over oceans, so regardless of energy requirement, there are no current solutions for massive scale offshore rainwater collection and redistribution.

This energy requirement problem is, of course, solved in nature where rainwaters are collected at mountain tops, maintaining the potential energy of rainwater, which is then the driving force behind rivers flowing down the mountain tops and through far reaching regions. To mimic this natural phenomenon via manmade systems, one must then build harvesting systems which can collect rainwater at high altitudes, and use the potential energy of the collected rainwater for long distance transportation of harvested rainwater.

Furthermore, any rainwater harvesting system need to be able to deal with high winds, especially at higher altitudes, as normally high winds are associated with rainy weather. Finally, any rainwater harvesting system needs to be able to deal with very high winds associated with tropical storms and hurricanes, as such climates could be a normal part of operating conditions in regions with high precipitation rates. Given these challenges, today, there is no solution for massive scale rainwater harvesting at high altitudes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention addresses challenges related to massive scale rainwater harvesting from regions with high precipitation rates and long distance transportation of the collected rainwater to regions with low precipitation rates, and encompasses features and advantages which makes the system robust, scalable and mobile.

This invention comprises modular, lightweight, large scale structures for harvesting massive amounts of rainwater (millions of gallon per day) at high altitudes (100 to 1000 meters), and extracting the potential energy of the harvested rainwater. In essence these structures represent artificial mountains.

In one embodiment of this invention, each rainwater harvesting structure, or module, is made of composite modular building-blocks, which enables rapid assembly and disassembly of the structures to create a mobile solution.

In accordance with an advantageous feature of the present invention, the composite construction material is made of abundant and waste materials such as lignin and recycled plastics. The micro-structure of the composite building-blocks is a honeycomb structure, which provides super strong, lightweight construction material.

In accordance with additional features of the present invention, the potential energy of the collected rainwater is naturally converted to kinetic energy, as collected water flows from high altitudes towards ground level. This kinetic energy could be used for immediate long distance transportation of harvested rainwater or is converted to electricity using power generating turbines.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention description below refers to the accompanying drawings, of which:

FIG. 1A-1D illustrate various views of a conceptual design for a single Rainwater Harvesting Module and FIG. 1E illustrate an example configuration for a Rainwater Harvesting System

FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate another conceptual design of a Rainwater Harvesting Module and an example configuration for a Rainwater Harvesting System

FIG. 3 shows a few illustrative images of commercial spring-loaded and vibration-dampening connectors

FIG. 4 depicts a conceptual design of a Rainwater Harvesting Module supported by a lighter-than-water craft and tethered to the sea floor for offshore rainwater harvesting

FIG. 5 depicts the honeycomb micro-structure of the composite construction material

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings, wherein like numerals refer to like or corresponding parts throughout the several views, the present invention is generally characterized as artificial constructions that can be constructed and arranged as high altitude rainwater harvesting and energy extraction modules and systems.

The conceptual designs in FIG. 1A-1D illustrate various views of a conceptual design for a Rainwater Harvesting Module (“RHM”). FIG. 2B illustrates another conceptual design for a RHM. As shown in FIG. 1E and FIG. 2B both conceptual designs of the RHM allow many RHMs to be configured to build a Rainwater Harvesting System (“RHS”). Each RHM could be 100-1000 meter tall, and is put together of modular building-blocks, which allows for rapid assembly and disassembly of the RHM and RHS. In the proposed conceptual designs of RHM, a self-supported pole, or tower, at the center of the RHM provides the main structural support. The self-supported tower is constructed on a concrete foundation on the ground. Guyed towers (not shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2) could also be considered instead of self-supported towers. Each RHM could have a total rainwater collection area of 0.1-1 acre. A key advantage of the invention is modular construction of the RHM which could be constructed to a desired elevation, and hence offers the flexibility for harvesting at different altitudes depending on the energy requirement for a specific transportation need. Another key advantage of the invention is its scalability, as 10s to 1000s of RHMs could be configured to build RHSs of different capacities.

The building-blocks, and modular sections of the self-supported tower or guyed tower, which are also modular and built of smaller sections, are connected together via spring-loaded connections, or vibration-dampening connections, to allow a flexible structure, which could sway with wind for increased overall stability and robustness in high winds. For example, Duerr et al., “Variable stiffness smart structure systems to mitigate seismic induced building damages,” Earthquake Engineering & Structural Dynamics, vol. 42, no. 2, 2013, p 221-237, discuss the performance improvement because of the retrofitting of building structures using the variable stiffness devices. FIG. 3 offers a few illustrative examples of commercially available spring-loaded and vibration dampening connectors.

One additional advantageous feature of the invention is that it could be used for onshore and offshore rainwater harvesting. While onshore each RHM is supported by the ground, or a concrete foundation on the ground, for offshore operations, each RHM, or a group of RHMs, are equipped with lighter-than-water craft bases, which are tethered to the sea floor, as illustrated in FIG. 4. For example U.S. Pat. Nos. US20110037264, U.S. Pat. No. 8,662,793, U.S. Pat. No. 7,075,189, U.S. Pat. No. 7,156,586, and U.S. Pat. No. 8,235,629 each disclose the use of rafts and floating foundations for support of wind turbines for offshore wind energy harvesting.

The composite material for construction of modular sections of a RHM, as illustrated in FIG. 5, has a honeycomb micro-structure, which offers superior strength and lightweight properties. For example, Bauer et al., “High-strength cellular ceramic composites with 3D microarchitecture,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 7, 2014, p 2453-2458, detailed the construction of a honeycomb micro-structure composite material, which exceeds the strength-to-weight ratio of all engineering materials, with a density below 1,000 kg/m3. In another example, Compton and Lewis, “3D-Printing of Lightweight Cellular Composites,” Advanced Materials, vol. 26, no. 34, 2014, p 5930-5935, detail development of cellular composite materials of unprecedented light weight and stiffness.

The composite is made of low cost, durable, strong materials. One advantageous feature of the present invention is the use of lignin reinforced composite polymer materials, which could be made of abundant waste products, including lignin and recycled plastics. For example, Thakur et al., “Progress in Green Polymer Composites from Lignin for Multifunctional Applications,” ASC Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2014, 2 (5), p 1072-1092, offer a comprehensive review of lignin-based materials for engineering applications, including strategies for modification of lignin and fabrication of composites. In another example, Setua et al., “Lignin reinforced rubber composites,” Polymer Composites, vol. 21, no. 6, 2000, p 988-995, discuss the advantages of lignin reinforced rubber composites.

Other examples of construction materials including but not limited to metals; metal foils; unreinforced polymers, such as polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, acrylic resins, styrene resins, polyurethanes, polysulfones, and combinations thereof; reinforced polymers, such as polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, acrylic resins, styrene resins, polyurethanes, polysulfones, and combinations thereof, containing mineral filler, carbon fiber, glass fiber, nanomaterials, ceramics and combinations thereof; and combinations thereof. The structure could be covered, or coated, with flexible, light weight, photovoltaic material, so it could collect solar energy which is converted to electricity for use in operations or is stored for later use.

One additional advantageous feature of the invention is that each rainwater harvesting module can be used as a platform and foundation for wind energy convertors such as power generating turbines for high altitude wind power harvesting.