Drinking water shortages is one of the big problems facing humanity in the coming years: according to the World Health Organization, by 2025 half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
With this arid forecast in mind, researchers from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology recently developed a prototype system that produces water from the air. Unlike existing water-from-air generators, the Technion system is based on a two-stage cyclic process. First, it separates moisture from the air using a highly concentrated saline solution, and then it condenses the vapor under sub-atmospheric pressure conditions.
“Our technology turns water into a commodity as it enables water to be produced anywhere in the world, without being dependent upon existing sources of liquid water,” explained the Technion’s Prof. David Broday, who developed the prototype together with colleague Prof. Eran Friedler.
“Existing technologies work simply as ‘reverse’ air conditioners, by cooling the whole air mass entering the system in order to condense the moisture,” said Friedler. “This ‘direct cooling’ approach is energetically inefficient, since such systems waste much of their energy requirements on cooling about 97 percent of the air volume, which is non-condensable.”
“The new technology involves cooling of only the moisture that has been extracted from the air, significantly reducing the amount of energy required to produce water,” he said.
Currently only a prototype, the researchers are working on turning the system into a commercial product that could prove particularly relevant for small and isolated communities that are located far from water sources.
“In addition to being an essential component of life, water also influences other important aspects, among them individual and community health and even the empowerment of women. In many places, young girls do not attend school because they are busy providing water for the family. Even as adults, women devote hours to transporting water,” Friedler said.
“Furthermore, access to water is a central factor in bloody confrontations in arid regions nowadays and constitutes one of the foremost motives for immigration,” he added.