Engineers from MIT and the University of California Berkeley have created a solar-powered system that can turn air into drinking water. It has turned out to be very efficient, able to work when humidity is as low as 20%.
This can be a big step towards helping communities that have no access to potable water, aid those in the desert, or one day, serve astronauts traveling to dry, dusty planets.
Omar Yaghi, one of the study’s senior authors, said, “One vision for the future is to have water off-grid, where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household.” Yaghi called this vision “personalized water,” the New York Post reports.
In order to make water, the engineers used a special material called a metal-organic framework, or MOF, from UC Berkeley. This material, which looks like a really fine powder, has tiny pores that can absorb and trap air. When sunlight is added to the mix, the water molecules are released and condensed, then turned into liquid form.
With just 2.2 pounds of MOF, this system can harvest 2.8 liters (or three quarts) of drinking water from the air in 12 hours.
We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert, you could survive because of this device. A person needs about a Coke can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system.
The technology is a long way from being ready for commercial use, but the team behind it says this breakthrough has laid the groundwork for a device that could deliver potable water to many parts of the world. It can also be used in many other applications.
Evelyn Wang from MIT explained that the next step is to create a 30-liter system that can provide drinking water for a family of four daily, which she says could be possible in the next two years, Newsweek reports.
The study was published in the journal Science.