A team of researchers from MIT and UC Berkeley has built a prototype solar-powered device that can pull or extract fresh water from the air.
It eventually could help dry and drought-stricken areas, say scientists who used it to pull three quarts of water from the atmosphere over 12 hours.
The solar device was invented 20 years ago by Professor Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, in collaboration with Professor Evelyn Wang, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The new technology, a collaboration between scientists at the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts of Technology, is based on a passive system that draws moisture into a foam-like material and condenses nearly 2.8 liters water even at humidity levels as low as 20 percent, according to the scientists.
The “personalized water” harvester is a small solar-powered device. The water harvester was made at MIT using a special material – a metal-organic framework, or MOF – created at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. Yaghi, one of the scientists involved in the project, envisions a future where such devices would make it possible for water to be supplied off-grid. “Water is supplied off-grid, where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household.”
The findings were reported in the journal Science.
Three years ago, Yaghi and his team developed a combination of zirconium and adipic acid that captures water vapor. Then, he approached MIT’s mechanical engineer Evelyn Wang to know if the device could be used to create a water-collecting device. Wang and her students successfully produced 3 quarts of water using 2.2 pounds of MOF over a period of 12 hours. It is a passive device, requiring no other sources of energy than the sunlight.
Considering the speed at which water levels are going down, finding alternate water sources is the need of the hour. The new discovery is definitely leading the researchers in the right direction and water from the air is no more a magic trick.