Jorge Chapa

Innovative System Creates Drinking Water from Thin Air

by , 07/08/09
filed under: Water Issues

water in the desert, water from air, humidity to drinking water, solar powered water harvesting, water harvesting, photo by snap

There is plenty of water in the world for everyone, the problem has always been trying to convert it into a form we can drink. German Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute recently announced that they have developed a new method to convert air humidity into drinking water using renewable energy. They are proposing large water harvesting plants to be located even in the most remote of places, such as the Sahara desert. Is this the solution to our water problems?

water in the desert, water from air, humidity to drinking water, solar powered water harvesting, water harvesting

Getting water from thin air is actually not as difficult as it seems – the problem has always been how to do so in a cheap and relatively energy efficient way. The research was led by Siegfried Egner, head of the deparment at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Stuttgart, in conjunction with Logos Innovationen. The most intriguing part of their research is how this concept can be adapted depending upon the demand for water. It can be adapted to suit individual needs as well as large-scale installations. So far, the researchers have been able to replicate this on a laboratory scale, though they hope to have a working facility up and running soon.

The innovative process works as follows: A saline solution known as hygroscopic brine absorbs moisture as it is drawn through a tower or chimney. The moisture-rich saline solution is then sucked into an underground tank, thanks to a lower pressure prevalent in the system, and is heated up by solar collectors installed in the roof. The lower pressure is the key in this process, as water is released from the brine at a temperature that is well below its boiling point. This evaporated water is collected and run down a completely filled tube, which in turn creates the lower pressure which drags down further liquid, thus creating a continuous loop within the system. This water is collected into a tank which can then be consumed.

There are still huge hurdles to cross before we see water harvesting plants like the one pictured above in cities everywhere. And indeed, there is no indication of what would be needed or how much they would cost. We have to say, though, that on principle, this seems like a worthy research project.

+ Fraunhofer ITP

Lead photo by Snapr

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8 Comments

  1. Krizz July 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I would to have one of that in drought stricken area.
    How can we work together?

  2. dmare July 12, 2009 at 1:08 am

    i think this already exists on a small scale
    http://www.ecoloblue.com/en/ecoloblue

  3. andrea July 10, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Margaux, I live in a temperate zone area with 80% humidity in the summer … my glasses and camera lens fog up when I step outside! Culling some of that humidity (especially when it keeps coming up from the Gulf of Mexico) is not going to harm our local œcology.
    andrea

  4. captj July 10, 2009 at 12:23 am

    The water maker is still an idea, in principle. When it is actualized, we’ll see happens.
    Like everything else, for that…..matter

  5. Margaux July 9, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    This seems like a terrible idea to me. That water comes from somewhere… do they know what kind of effect that would have on the surrounding environment? I bet they don’t. For all they know it could have negative effects on transpiration processes for hundreds or thousands of miles.

  6. CosmicChuck July 8, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    It would be great if such a project could be made to work efficiently on a smaller scale, so that an individual house could be designed so that it would create all the water needed by its inhabitants for drinking, cleaning, swimming pools, as well as watering the lawn and any gardens. It would also be worthwhile if golf courses could be constructed in such a fashion as to be self-sufficient regarding water usage. The same for schools, shopping malls, public parks, etc. Self-sufficient water generation would reduce the need for piping the water in from elsewhere, therefore reducing both new construction as well as maintenance costs.

  7. paulblakeman July 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    The fraunhofer institute?! Didn’t they also invent the mp3 format? Busy girls & guys they must be :p

  8. paulblakeman July 8, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Fraunhofer Institute?! Aren’t they the same people that created the mp3 format?

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