New solar device extracts water from dry air

A new invention uses the sun’s energy to pull water from dry air. The solar powered harvester has been developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and uses porous […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

A new invention uses the sun’s energy to pull water from dry air.

The solar powered harvester has been developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and uses porous crystalline sponges to trap, concentrate and condense particles from the air to deliver clean water.

These sponge materials are called metal-organic frameworks (MOF) and were originally invented in the 1990s by Omar Yaghi, Senior Faculty Scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Mr Yaghi continued to work on the recent project – his team used a kilogram of the material to create a solar powered prototype capable of generating 2.8 litres of water from ambient air in 12 hours.

The humidity during this period ranged from 20% to 30%, conditions as arid as a desert.

Mr Yaghi said: “This is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity and it’s also a significant step towards commercialisation.

“Current dehumidifiers are powered by electricity so creating that extra water ends up costing extra energy.”

He added the technology could be used in the future to have domestic off-the-grid devices running on ambient sunlight to satisfy the water needs of households.

Last year saw the design of a solar powered structure that could make sea water drinkable.