Last October, a team from the University of California placed their latest prototype water harvester into the Arizona desert. Powered only by sunlight, the device immediately started sucking drinking water out of the air. With millions of people across the globe living without to fresh water, the prototype immediately showed promising results that could change the lives of those living in the driest areas of the world. The prototype has been followed by a larger next-generation water harvester which could extract water throughout the day and night at even the lowest humidities and at low cost.
“There is nothing like this,” said Omar Yaghi, who invented the technology. “It operates at ambient temperature with ambient sunlight, and with no additional energy input you can collect water in, the desert. This laboratory-to-desert journey allowed us to really turn water harvesting from an interesting phenomenon into a science.”
The trial completed in Scottsdale, has suggested that upscaling will be a case of increasing the amount of water absorber. The current material used for absorption is a highly porous material known as a metal-organic framework, (MOF) that is currently made from zirconium. But Yaghi is keen to further develop the product by creating a new aluminium MOF that is cheaper and could extract double the quantity of water. It is hoped that this new generation of MOF will mean a kilogram of the material will result in over 400ml of water a day being sucked from the air.
The results of the first field test have been published in June 8 issue of Science Advances.
For more information about science and technology, visit our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the latest digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!