Expanding on Ancient Techniques to Combat Water Scarcity
February 8, 2024 EA Editor

Can we extract water from the air?


Turns out we can.

Technology companies are innovating centuries-old methods to extract water from the air, offering solutions to water scarcity issues.

Cody Friesen, an associate professor at Arizona State University, has developed solar-powered hydropanels capable of absorbing water vapor from sunlight exposure. This approach, reminiscent of ancient techniques like fog nets in Peru, is gaining traction, with startups at the Consumer Electronics Show showcasing similar innovations. Friesen’s company, Source Global, formerly Zero Mass Water, has achieved significant success, operating in over 50 countries with a valuation exceeding $1 billion.

Friesen’s hydropanels utilize sunlight to power fans that draw air into the device, where a desiccant material absorbs and traps moisture.

The accumulated water vapor is then emitted and condensed into liquid form, making it drinkable after mineral addition. This innovative approach enables water production even in extremely dry areas like Scottsdale, Arizona, where relative humidity is below 5%. The goal is to democratize water access, benefiting rural communities and regions affected by natural disasters.

While a panel costs around $2,000 and lasts 15 years, advancements in AI enhance water extraction efficiency by monitoring environmental factors. Friesen envisions potential applications on Mars, where water vapor could be converted into liquid water using solar power.

Various companies are exploring innovative ways to extract water from the air, with some venturing into unexpected markets.

Kara Water, known for its water dispensers, unveiled a coffee machine called the Kara Pod, which purportedly brews endless cups by continuously refilling itself with air-extracted water. Competitors like Rainmaker and Phantor–Imhotep Industries are also developing air-to-water products capable of harvesting large quantities daily.

Atmospheric Water Solutions offers an air-to-water dispenser doubling as an air purifier and dehumidifier, while Atmospark is marketing a portable device for on-the-go water access. Despite the appeal of these advancements, it remains uncertain if they will deliver as promised.