Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa say they have developed a stand-alone system capable of producing water from air, including in desert regions.
Described as the “first technology of its kind in the world,” the energy-efficient system aims to assist small and isolated communities far from freshwater and saltwater sources.
Unlike existing water-from-air technologies, based on cooling condensation techniques, the system is based on a two-stage cyclic process: first separating moisture from air by absorption using a highly concentrated saline solution, and then separating the moisture by condensing the vapor under subatmospheric pressure conditions.
“Besides being energy efficient, the new technology offers an additional advantage: As part of the process, the water undergoes also pollutant-removal processes,” said Prof. David Broday, who developed the technology with Prof. Eran Friedler.
“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,” he said.
Approximately 13% of the world’s population is expected to face insufficient availability of drinking water by 2025, according to World Health Organization estimates. Ensuring universal access to water and sanitation is one of the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals for 2030.
“Existing technologies work simply as ‘reverse’ air conditioners by cooling the whole air mass entering the system in order to condense the moisture,” Friedler said. “This ‘direct cooling’ approach is energetically inefficient, since such systems waste much of their energy requirements on cooling about 97% 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.”
The researchers said they currently are working to turn their prototype solution into a commercial product, targeting far-flung communities that lack access to desalination facilities.
“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,” Friedler said.
“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,” he 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. In such conflict zones, the risk of children dying from polluted water is 20 times higher than dying due to violent acts,” Friedler said.