Scientists Invent Device that Extracts Water from the Desert Air

Scientists Invent Machine that Extracts Water from the Desert Air

KAUST researchers have created an inexpensive hydrogel-based material that efficiently captures moisture even from low-humidity air and then releases it on demand. A simple device that can capture its own weight in water from fresh air, then release that water when warmed by sunlight, could provide a secure new source of drinking water in remote arid regions. Globally, the Earth’s air contains almost 13 billion tons of water, a vast renewable reservoir of clean drinking water.

Earth is covered in water. In fact, if you ask me, why did anyone even call our planet Earth? Planet Water would be a name that suits it better.

The surface of our planet has lots of water, and while there are millions of trillions of water out there, the crazy part is that only around two percent of that water is adequate for human consumption. 99.5 percent of that water remains frozen or buried below the surface.

However, while hundreds of years ago humans were tied to consuming water from rivers, lakes, or even rainwater, today things are different and given the right technology, we can produce water even from the desert.

According to scientists, around 13 trillion tons of water is located all around us, the only thing we have to do is find an away and extract it. Now there are a few methods to do so, but there are either too expensive or not as efficient to be worth the while.

However, scientists from Saudi Arabia have now found a solution how to extract water from the driest places on Earth.

They have constructed a device that has the ability to harvest and store water, and release the liquid once warmed by sunlight.

The best part is that the prototype is a cheap, eco-friendly chemical compound calcium chloride.

This deliquescent salt has such a high affinity for water that it will absorb so much vapor from the surrounding air that eventually a pool of liquid forms, explained Renyuan Li, a Ph.D. student and member of the research team.

“The deliquescent salt can dissolve itself by absorbing moisture from the air,” he says.

Since this is a problem, researchers developed a way they could store the calcium chloride but as a hydrogel.

The hydrogel being poured. © 2018 KAUST
The hydrogel being poured. © 2018 KAUST

With the help of nanotubes that allow the water to escape, the team managed to use a light source and reclaim nearly 100 percent of the gel.

The result? An “easy-to-assemble-at-household” prototype which, after just two-and-a-half hours in the sunlight can deliver 20 grams of water. The device does not need any electricity, which means it can be used in the most remote and driest parts of the world.

“Water scarcity is one of the most challenging issues that threaten the lives of mankind,” scientists explain in the research paper.

“This technology provides a promising solution for clean water production in arid and land-locked and remote regions.”

Environmental Science and Technology
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