– The idea that we could create water out of thin air is no longer in the realm of science fiction. Scientists have long tried to come up with a solution how to convert air into water and some companies have already been successful in their attempts.
Now, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced they have developed a box that can convert low-humidity air into water, producing several liters every 12 hours. What is special about this new prototype, though, is that it can cultivate water in low-humidity environments using no energy.
Technologies exist for extracting water from very moist air, such as “fog harvesting” systems that have been deployed in a number of coastal locations. But the new method is the first that has potential for widespread use in virtually any location, regardless of humidity levels, the researchers say. Scientists have developed a completely passive system that is based on a foam-like material that draws moisture into its pores and is powered entirely by solar heat.
“It takes water from the air and it captures it,” said Evelyn Wang, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of the paper.A device like this one could be very beneficial especially for people living in remote areas where there’s really limited infrastructure.
“There are desert areas around the world with around 20 percent humidity,” where potable water is a pressing need, “but there really hasn’t been a technology available that could fill” that need, Wang says. The new system, by contrast, is “completely passive — all you need is sunlight,” with no need for an outside energy supply and no moving parts.
The system is still in the prototype phase, but in the next few years, the developers hope to find a way to reproduce the devices on a large scale and eventually create a formal product.
The box uses a material that resembles powdery sand to trap air in its tiny pores. When heated by the sun or another source, water molecules in the trapped air are released and condensed – essentially “pulling” the water out of the air, the scientists said.
A recent test on a roof at MIT confirmed that the system can produce about a glass of water every hour in 20-30% humidity.
The final product should be relatively affordable and accessible.
Other companies that already produce water of out thin air are Water-Gen and EcoloBlue.