Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on a visit to the Czech Republic at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Lubomir Zaoralek, reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthen relations between the two countries, the Foreign Ministry said today.Discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Zaoralek included reviewing ongoing bilateral cooperation and identifying new areas for partnership in sectors such as power and energy, waste management, automobile production, defence, aviation, and advanced medical treatment. Minister Samaraweera also handed over to his counterpart, an invitation from President Maithripala Sirisena to the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman to visit Sri Lanka. Recalling the invaluable support extended by the Czech Republic during the conflict years in Sri Lanka, the Minister expressed appreciation for the generous support extended during the recent floods. Minister Samaraweera explained the main agenda of Sri Lanka’s National Unity Government, which includes strengthening democracy, fostering reconciliation, ensuring socio-economic development and sustainable peace. Minister Zaoralek welcomed the positive developments in Sri Lanka following the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015, and reiterated the Czech Government’s fullest support for ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy, promote reconciliation and , re-engaging the international community. Minister Samaraweera invited Minister Zaoralek to visit Sri Lanka in 2017 which would mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Foreign Minister also attended the christening of the Sri Lankan origin baby elephant at the Prague Zoo as Chief Guest. The baby elephant born in the Prague Zoo on 5 April 2016, was christened Maximilian (Max) to honour of a gift of a Sri Lankan elephant in the 1550s to the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian II (later King of Bohemia, King of Hungary, and the Holy Roman Emperor).Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Designate to the Czech Republic resident in Vienna, Priyanee Wijesekera; Consul General of the Czech Republic in Sri Lanka Dr. Lohitha Samarawickrama; Acting Director General Dhammika Semasinghe; and Second Secretary Namal Wijayamuni Soysa; were associated with the Foreign Minister during the visit. Demonstrating the commitment on both sides to revitalize and advance the bilateral economic agenda, an agreement on Mutual Cooperation between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Economic Development in Sri Lanka was initialed in the presence of Minister Samaraweera and Czech Republic’s Deputy Trade Minister Slukova.The Foreign Minister also attended a breakfast meeting with representatives of leading Czech companies and had meetings with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament and senior Government officials in the Czech Senate on 9 June and the Deputy Minister of Defence on 10 June.
Water scarcity and its careful management are a focus of the July issue of the magazine. A number of high profile desalination plants have been built by mines, for example in Chile. One of the main deterrents to this option is the high power cost involved. This may be overcome using a low-temperature distillation method of desalination developed by the New Mexico State University (NMSU) in the USA.Earlier this year this was licensed to Sterling Water LLC of Qatar. The system uses the natural effects of gravity and atmospheric pressure to create a vacuum in which water can evaporate and condense at lower temperatures than normal for distillation. Its energy requirements are so low that it can be powered by solar energy.A successful proof-of-concept model was developed last year and the NMSU-led project transferred the science and prototype model from lab bench to a market capable product. Sterling Water intends to bring the commercial model into full manufacturing in the coming year.The first unit built by the College of Engineering at NMSU produced over 750 litres/d – enough pure water for about 15 people. It is powered by a solar panel. Two 10 m vertical tubes, rising respectively from a tank of saline water and a tank of pure water, are connected by a horizontal tube. The barometric pressure of the water columns creates a vacuum in the headspace.At ambient temperatures, evaporation from the pure-water side will travel to the saline side and condense as the system seeks equilibrium. Raising the temperature of the water in the headspace over the saline column slightly more than that of the freshwater column causes the flow to go in the other direction, so that pure, distilled water collects on one side and the brine concentrate is left behind in a separate container.The origins of the technology can be traced to a process, first developed by researchers in Florida, that makes distillation of saline water possible at the relatively low temperatures of 45-50ºC rather than the 60-100ºC required by most distillation processes. Two problems to be addressed in the commercial version are the height of the water columns and brine disposal.Cheap power is important for so many aspects of today’s mining operations, helping them remain sustainable. Isis Innovation, a company that endeavours to commercialise some of the achievements of Oxford University, England, has a new approach for local generation of hydrogen as a fuel that operates cleanly, at low temperatures, for long periods and at high yield.Isis notes “there is a great deal of work ongoing on hydrogen storage materials (i.e. those that absorb hydrogen and release it on heating). The key difference of the Oxford approach is to use the earth’s vast resources of silica, with water as the hydrogen storage medium. The initial step involves the green conversion of silica (sand) to silicon nanopowder, which can then release hydrogen on demand, upon the addition of water. Silica, which is regenerated as a by-product, can either be safely disposed or recycled. This technology could be used as an emergency hydrogen source in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as well as in lower power fuel cell applications such as communication devices.“The Oxford technology offers a number of benefits:■ An innovative approach for local hydrogen supply■ Low grade silicon can be used as a feedstock■ Hydrogen generated at low temperatures (70-90°C)■ High yield of hydrogen (36-58%)■ Uses non-corrosive and easily disposed-of chemicals.”