When Antonio Ibáñez de Alba rescued a friend from the sea in Ceuta when he was on the point of drowning, he had already designed numerous inventions. However, that experience made him decide to do go on and invent something else. Obsessed by the fact that drowning is the main cause of accidental death in children (until 15 August, 339 people drowned in Spain this year) this engineer set to work to find a way of preventing it.
First, he thought of a swimming pool with a movable floor which rises to the surface when it detects a sustained weight. Then he invented a type of water which, although it contains no salt, is 30 times denser than normal thanks to the inclusion of natural products such as the ones normally used in shampoos and gels and which, just like in the Dead Sea, make it impossible for a body to sink. “Even if the swimmer is face down, the air pressure of the rib cage makes the body turn over so they can’t swallow water,” he explains. Antonio realises that many people find it difficult to float in any position in water which does not contain salt, and he says that it won’t be long before anyone who is interested will be able to go to the shop and buy this product. “It lasts between two and five years; you throw it into the pool in solid form, put the machinery on and in 24 hours you’ll have water you float in. It doesn’t take any more effort or time to maintain this water than it would in a pool with normal water,” he says.
As if that were not enough Antonio, who trained in Barcelona and the USA, plans to launch his latest invention in a few weeks’ time: a type of stamp which is applied to the back of the neck and acts like an app to monitor the length of time a swimmer is under water. Artificial palm trees Antonio Ibáñez de Alba’s life is like something out of a novel. Born in Chiclana and brought up in Barcelona, in a family of farmers and soldiers, this tireless inventor has workedv for NASA, developing a magnetic reactor; created trees which extinguish fires, designed a model for underwater motorways, smart slippers, an identification system through the recognition of digital fingerprints, an insulin patch for diabetics and, of course, his famous artificial palm trees.
Not everybody will remember these, but back in the 1980s this modern-day Spanish Leonardo Da Vinci designed artificial palm trees which could modify the climate in even the most inhospitable places. At home, he was considered crazy, but his invention interested Gadaffi, who wanted to convert vast expanses of African desert into fertile ground.
“He rang me, gave me a budget of one billion dollars and arranged for me to go there. We put 50,000 palm trees into place, and planted fruit trees in-between. In one year the maximum temperature in the area dropped around ten degrees and we increased the humidity, which was zero, to between 25 and 30 per cent while we watched the orange trees grow,” he says.
Although political instability in Libya forced him to leave, Antonio says the palm trees and the water to prevent drowning are his favourite inventions. “One day my daughter came home from school and said my trees were in one of her text books. She said she was proud of me, so that has made me proud as well. And I still have plenty more ideas!” he says.