Alan Turing's Last Published Paper From 1952 Inspired the Invention of a New Water Filter
“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” goes the famous line in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If only computer scientist Alan Turing had been alive when it was written in 1798, the sailor at the center of that poem might not have gone thirsty.
While Turing was best known for his code-breaking machine, which helped the Allies win World War II, he published one paper on biology in 1952. This paper—the last one he ever published—has inspired a new league of scientists in China to create an improved water filter, as Science Alert reports.
In his paper, Turing set out to explain how certain patterns, like tiger stripes, develop in living organisms. His findings were later confirmed by British researchers and are now commonly referred to as “Turing patterns.”
As Popular Mechanics explains:
“The key feature of these structures is that researchers can precisely manipulate their shape, size, and components to create specific properties. In this new study, a group of researchers used some chemicals called polyamides to create a membrane that lets water through while blocking salt. What's more, the Turing structures in the membrane allow it to overcome a fundamental limitation of these types of water filters.”
Although water can be purified easily, it’s a slow process because anything that blocks salt also tends to make it difficult for water to pass through. The new filter uses Turing structures to solve that problem, and it reportedly works three times as fast as current filters on the market, according to the journal Nature.
Turing died in 1954, but nearly 150 papers he had written were discovered at the University of Manchester just last year. His prolific body of work still serves as an important reference to this day.
[h/t Popular Mechanics]