LLAY LLAY, Chile – Black plastic spheres will allow Chilean businesses to reduce water evaporation and the growth of algae in storage tanks used in sectors like agroindustry and mining, and this will translate into lower production costs and less negative environmental impact.
The invention is the Barrier Ball, and it is already being used in several locations around the country, including agricultural fields in the community of Llay Llay, located 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of Santiago, with the support of the organization devoted to promoting the country abroad: Imagen de Chile.
The innovative system consists of a floating cover made of plastic spheres, which will shield the water from the sun, thus preventing much evaporation.
In addition, because the sun’s rays are prevented from reaching the water’s surface, photosynthesis will not be able to occur, thus preventing the growth of algae in water tanks or storage systems.
The system is already in use elsewhere around the globe, including in the US, where it has been used to avoid water loss during long droughts in California over the past few years, but the Chilean firm Exma has improved the system and lowered production costs.
Cristobal Rodillo, the general manager of the firm, told EFE that the new system improves upon the already-existing ones consisting of “plastic membranes” to cover water storage sites, which – he said – degrade relatively quickly and must be regularly changed.
Barrier Balls “remain in place without moving and without needing to be replaced for at least 15 years,” he said.
Rodillo also said that mining operations require that water deposits be maintained at a warm temperature all year long, something that’s difficult during the winter but is made possible with the spheres, since they form a barrier between the water the air that keeps the heat from leaking out into the atmosphere.
Thus, he said, the emission of “several tons of CO2” can be avoided each year, and the costs of transferring the water to the lithium and copper mines in the Andes can be reduced since water loss on the journey can be avoided.