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Scientists turn air into drinkable water

posted onJune 29, 2017
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Severe water shortages already affect many regions around the world, and are expected to get much worse as the population grows and the climate heats up. But a new technology developed by scientists could provide a novel way of obtaining clean, fresh water almost anywhere on Earth, by drawing water directly from moisture in the air even in the driest of locations.

The solar-powered harvester, reported in the journal Science, was constructed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using a special material — a metal-organic framework, or MOF — produced at the University of California, Berkeley.

“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,” Omar Yaghi, one of the senior authors of the study, told Berkeley News. He referred to this vision as “personalized water.”

Using just 2.2 pounds of MOF, the device can harvest 2.8 liters of water out of the air over a 12-hour period.

Co-authors of the paper with Yaghi and Wang are Eugene Kapustin and Hiroyasu Furukawa of UC Berkeley and Hyunho Kim, Sungwoo Yang, Sameer Rao, Shankar Narayanan and Ari Umans of MIT. 

The work was supported in part by ARPA-E, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy.