Debasmita Banerjee
Debasmita Banerjee
17 Apr 2017

Scientists from MIT and UC Berkeley devise a method of pumping out drinking water from moisture

Living in a world without resources to survive over time can be challenging, especially when a basic element reasoning your existence is in danger. According to Wikipedia ( with compiled references ), more than 1.2 billion people are deprived of accessing clean drinking water. While the scene takes a turn for the worse in areas without physical water bodies, the poor economy, on the other hand, fails to bring the life above the ground. Addressing this chronic issue, a research group from the MIT and UC, Berkley have developed a novel approach, for squeezing out the water from moisture. They claim, irrespective of the location, people will be able to draw out drinking water.

The way to harness clean water is an old method but the technology, shaping that way is an efficient neobie. Further in the press release, the research group takes pride on their development, which is frugal, widely applicable irrespective of humidity levels compared to the conventional expensive “fog harvesting” systems. Being omnipresent in Chile and Morocco, the system needs highly moist air, with a relative humidity of 100 percent. Another sytem, known as dew harvesting asks for a chilled bottom plate that condenses water inside it but drains energy to run even though, the system has a chance of failing if the relative humidity goes down to 50 percent. As per Wang, the Gail E. Kendall Professor at MIT, the new system is devoid of such restraints.


Extracting Drinking Water from a foam-based material

Taking a hint from the previous picture, we can safely assert that no previous models were able to transform the air into the water in dry conditions, for example in deserts. As Wang said, their foam-based model, however, is unique as it runs on solar heat with no extra part, no outside driving sources and are able to capture moisture into its pores, giving out the most-awaited drinking water. Going bold, MIT postdoc Sameer Rao asserted that the system actually needs heat, which need not be sunlight but a wood fire.

The magic lies in that foam based porous material that falls in a a family of compounds named as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Two decades ago, Omar Yaghi, a professor of chemistry at UC Berkley devised the foam material with large internal surface areas. Manipulating with its internal structure actually makes its surface either hydrophic or hydrophilic. The team found out that if the material is placed between a painted black surface that absorbs solar heat and a bottom surface placed at the same temperature as air, water is released from the pores and owing to the temperature and concentration difference it goes down as gets stored in the bottom suurface in liquid form. The test results proved that 1 Kg. of the MOF can give birth to three quarts of fresh water per day, sufficient to supply one when the relative humidity is only 20 percent.

Watch them talk about their research

Another interesting point is that the MOFs come in different kinds and with hundreds of various organic compounds mixed together, they can be shaped as and when required. MIT graduate student Hyunho Kim said that a particular combination can make the material work at 50 percent whereas a different combination can help it run at only 20 percent relative humidity. Yaghi, shared is dream which portrays a houshold running in balance with an adequete water source which shall one day be true with the newest research.

Although very promising, the project is currently at its nascent stage and requiries further modifications before it can have its industrial demeanour. The work is supported by ARPA-E, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy and has been published in the journal Science.

Source: MIT

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