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Drinking Water Harvested From Thin Air

DARPA-funded project is more than twice as effective as other water harvesting systems.

MIT's SAWH device
MIT's SAWH device | Xiangyu Li

Scientists have invented a low-cost device that can extract drinking water from thin air using an innovative fin-like system. It looks like an important possible solution to help meet the growing global demand for potable water - simply by harvesting fresh water from Earth’s atmosphere.

A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US came up with a low-cost and compact system that uses an approach referred to as sorption-based atmospheric water harvesting (SAWH), which makes use of water-absorbent “fins” to collect water.

“There is about 1300 trillion litres of fresh water in the atmosphere that could be readily harvested without relying on the existing liquid water supply. Sorption-based atmospheric water harvesting promises potable water production in extreme arid environments where conventional atmospheric water harvesting solutions such as fog harvesting and dewing are infeasible,” say the MIT researchers.

They further noted that "about two-thirds of the global population is suffering from water scarcity, and it is estimated that about 40 percent of the global annual water demand will not be met by 2030" so innovative devices like their SAWH could be good news for millions of people.

According to their study, calculations based on a working prototype of the system suggest that 1 litre of absorbent coating on the fins could produce up to 1.3 litres of potable water per day in air with 30 percent relative humidity – a volume two to five times greater than previously developed systems.


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