A couple of years ago, we reported on the early development of a device that harvests water from the air that even works in the low humidity environment of a desert. Since then, the researchers from UC Berkeley have continued to improve the device and it is now 10 times better than it was two years ago.
The harvester is based on a porous water-absorbing material called a metal-organic framework, or MOF. The latest version can pull more than five cups of water from low-humidity air per day for every kilogram of the improved MOF material and that is more than enough water to sustain a person. The harvester cycles around the clock and is powered by solar panels and a battery.
Previous techniques for condensing water from air at low humidity required cooling down the air to temperatures below freezing, which is not economically practical. The MOF-based device does not require any cooling.
The Berkeley researchers have formed a startup company – Water Harvester, Inc. – which is now testing and will soon market a device the size of a microwave oven that can supply 7 to 10 liters of water per day, which is enough drinking and cooking water for two or three adults.
An even larger version of the harvester, which would be the size of a small refrigerator, would provide 200 to 250 liters of water per day, enough for a household to drink, cook, and shower. The new company envisions a village-scale harvester that would produce 20,000 liters per day, still running off of solar panels and a battery.
Water Harvester believes the water needs for many people can come out of the thin air.
Photo courtesy of Grant Glover (University of South Alabama) via UC Berkeley.