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Water From Air? Solar Device Wrings H2O Out of Nowhere

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By    |   Monday, 17 Apr 2017 08:35 AM

A prototype device that wrings water from thin air using solar power eventually could help dry and drought-stricken areas, say scientists who used it to pull three quarts of water from the atmosphere over 12 hours.

While technology already exists to pull water from very moist air, the new water harvesting system would be able to draw water from the air in almost any location, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Their findings were reported in the journal Science.

The three quarts of water pulled from the air in half a day were produced under conditions of 20 to 30 percent humidity.

"There are desert areas around the world with around 20 percent humidity," said MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang. "(The device is) completely passive – all you need is sunlight."

The water harvester was made at MIT using a special material – a metal-organic framework, or MOF – created at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity," said Omar Yaghi of the University of California. "There is no other way to do that right now, except by using extra energy. Your electric dehumidifier at home 'produces' very expensive water."

Yaghi invented metal-organic frameworks more than 20 years ago and they are ideal for storing gases and liquids. More than 20,000 different MOFs have now been created by researchers worldwide, holding such chemicals such as hydrogen or methane.

"The team found that when this material is placed between a top surface that is painted black to absorb solar heat, and a lower surface that is kept at the same temperature as the outside air, water is released from the pores as vapor and is naturally driven by the temperature and concentration difference to drip down as liquid and collect on the cooler lower surface," said an MIT release.

Yagi said the device could make it possible for people to live anywhere without the worry of finding drinking water.

"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," said Yaghi, the founding director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute. "To me, that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalized water."

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A prototype device that wrings water from thin air using solar power eventually could help drought-stricken areas, say scientists who used it to pull three quarts of water from the atmosphere over 12 hours.
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Monday, 17 Apr 2017 08:35 AM
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