Freshwater Harvester in Development Could Harvest 10 Gallons of Water Every Hour
With a portable freshwater harvester in development, up to 10 gallons of water could be harvested from the air every hour.
The end of freshwater shortage?
The innovation was presented by scientists in a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Tuesday, August 21. The researchers, led by Shing-Chung Wong, PhD, presented their findings during the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the ACS, hoping to address worldwide water shortage. “I was visiting China, which has a freshwater scarcity. There’s investment in wastewater treatment, but I thought that effort alone was inadequate,” said Wong.
Water scarcity inspired Wong and his group of researchers to focus on developing an alternative method of freshwater harvesting. They settled on a portable freshwater harvester that takes advantage of the vast volumes of atmospheric water. In their opinion, recycling waste water is expensive and does not meet the demand for water.
According to Wong, the device will be able to draw up to 10 gallons of water per hour, not only in humid regions, but also in arid regions including deserts, making plenty of fresh water available to both humans and animals anywhere on earth where water levels are quickly dwindling.
How does the portable freshwater harvester work?
Wong, together with his students from the University of Akron, say their device uses a nanofiber-based method of water collection where they employ the use of elctrospun polymers. Through electrospinning, polymer fibers “ranging from tens of nanometers to 1 micrometre” are produced by the electrical forces. Wong says the dimensions are an ideal size to condense and squeeze water droplets out of the air
Due to their size, the nanoscale fibers provide a high surface area to volume ratio, which allows water molecules to pass through. By use of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers, which attract water and discharge water respectively, the device can harvest 744 mg/ cm2/ h, which, according to Wong and his team, is 91 percent higher than similarly designed devices without nanofibers.
The portable freshwater harvester has a high chance of success due to the efficient ratio implemented into the design paired with its efficient minimal energy requirements. “We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device,” said Wong.
Regarding the purity of the water, Wong says the nanofiber design filters the water particles as they get captured. The elctrospun polymers “act as an anti-fouling surface, sloughing of microbes that could collect on the harvester’s surface.” As a result, the water is clear and pollutant-free, and can be consumed immediately after collection.
Wong hopes to receive funding to put their research into a tangible product. If successful, this portable freshwater harvester will prove useful in providing water for all life on earth despite changing climate conditions. It remains to be seen whether or not the harvester will see the light of day.