Scientists Are Developing a Device to Harvest Up to 10 Gallons of Drinking Water Per Hour From Thin Air

Monday, August 27, 2018 - 16:37

A team of researchers at the University of Akron is working on a device that can harvest drinking water from thin air.

Shing-Chung Josh Wong at the University of Akron in Ohio, US and his team created a new material that they believe will be a large improvement, New Scientist reports.

They used electrospun polymers – a technique which allowed them to create nanoscale fibers. These are tangled around fragments of expanded graphite, like spaghetti around meatballs.

The fibers provide a large surface area for droplets to condense onto, and the graphite encourages the water to drip out of the material when it is squeezed or heated.

Wong says that harvesters made with these nanofibres could yield up to 180 liters of water per square meter every day. In comparison, a commercial system currently in use in Morocco only produces around 30 liters per square meter per day.

As well as squeezing water from the air, the nanofibres also filter out dirt and bacteria, meaning the water is safe to drink. Although the system can work passively, Wong envisions using a small battery to cool an element attached to the material. This would mean the harvester could operate beyond the range of typical fog nets – even in deserts.

“There is always some humidity in the atmosphere. Where you see cloud, that means there is water,” says Wong. He says to operate the collector it would only need to be 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding environment. With the advent of lithium ion batteries, “we can put the whole thing into a backpack.”

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