Solar Energy System Pulls Clean Drinking Water From Thin Air

Solar device draws moisture from the air we breathe and condenses it into drinkable water.

Solar Panel

What if solar energy could pull drinking water out of thin air?

Cody Friesen, founder of Arizona startup Zero Mass Water, is on a mission to do just that.

 

“Drinking water is a fundamental human right,” Friesen said. “We intrinsically own the air we breathe by just taking a breath, and almost no one on the planet owns the water they drink.”

 

Friesen developed Source, a solar panel that draws moisture from the air we breathe and condenses it into drinkable water.

 

“Anybody who has an air conditioner makes water from air. There’s nothing magical there,” said Friesen. “What we set out to do is to develop a solar panel that makes drinking water instead of electricity.”

Water Condenser

Zero Mass Water

How does it work? Imagine a salt shaker with grains of rice interspersed among the salt. The rice absorbs moisture, keeping the salt dry. Zero Mass Water developed a material that acts like those grains of rice, absorbing water from the air.

Water is extracted from that material and purified. Source adds calcium and magnesium to match the flavor and pH of bottled water, producing 5 liters each day – enough to sate a family of four.

Because Source is powered entirely by solar energy, it can operate far from a power grid or centralized water supply. It is a leapfrog technology much like solar panels and cell phones, which have allowed those in developing countries to generate electricity and connect to the internet without constructing power plants or installing phone lines.

water condeser

Zero Mass Water

Friesen (center) with his colleagues in Arizona.

Friesen says panels are built to last and maintenance is easy. Refill the mineral supplement every now and then and look out for repairs, and things should stay nice and wet.

“Anyone who can use a Phillips-head screwdriver can do maintenance on the system,” he said. “It’s all within arms reach and very, very simple.” Before long, he says, replacement parts will be available online.

Friesen, a professor of engineering at Arizona State University, developed Source in the dry Southwest. The invention has already garnered interest from consumers in California and Arizona who want to use it replace bottled water.

Source will prove even more valuable to consumers in developing countries. Roughly one in ten people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Climate change threatens to exacerbate this problem by fueling drought in vulnerable regions. A machine that can draw moisture from the air would be eminently useful for families in poor, remote areas.

Zero Mass Water has already installed panels in the United States, Mexico, Jordan, and Ecuador. Friesen recalled the story of one family in Ecuador that installed a panel, and the impact it had on their young daughter.

“It fundamentally changed that little girl’s life,” said Friesen. “She went from having no clean water… to, all of a sudden, having perfectly clean, beautiful drinking water.”

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After Centuries, Scientists Have Finally Figured Out How Water Conducts Electricity

One of life’s most fundamental processes has finally been witnessed.

(reprinted from sciencealert.com)

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It’s a textbook moment centuries in the making: more than 200 years after scientists started investigating how water molecules conduct electricity, a team has finally witnessed it happening first-hand.

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Inside Tiny Tubes, Water Freezes At Boiling Temperature

MIT researchers discover astonishing behavior of water confined in carbon nanotubes.

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A team at MIT has found an unexpected discovery about water: Inside the tiniest of spaces — in carbon nanotubes whose inner dimensions are not much bigger than a few water molecules — water can freeze solid even at high temperatures that would normally set it boiling. The finding might lead to new applications such as ice-filled wires. Courtesy of the researchers
Do you think water freezes at boiling temperature?  New research from MIT demonstrates this can occur.

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Single Ions Impact a Million Water Molecules

The structure of water is much more susceptible to the impact of ions than previously thought

(reprinted from phys.org)
Single ions impact a million water molecules
A single ion has an influence on millions of water molecules, i.e. 10,000 times more than previously thought. Credit: LPB/EPFL

Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (“EPFL”) have found that water molecules are 10,000 times more sensitive to ions than previously thought.

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