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Fresh water from the desert air.

Overview of harvesting water from the air:

  • Have you ever seen sparkling morning dew and wondered, “What if I could harvest this dew so I could water my plants?”
  • As it turns out an MIT research team has done just that.  They basically figured out how to tap into the same phenomena to efficiently make gallons of water, just from the air.
File:Spider web with dew drops04.jpg

Spider web with dew droplets.
Image via Wikipedia.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spider_web_with_dew_drops04.jpg

More specifically:

  • Researchers from MIT have honed in on a way to pull water from fog.
  • Their system is surprisingly low-tec; they have created a mesh like material that causes moisture in fog to condense.  In doing so, the mesh produces gallons of water a day out of thin (…I mean thick) air.
  • And here’s the really cool part, it is a passive system that doesn’t use any energy.

I am very excited about this.  Totally free clean water with a simple system that doesn’t use any electricity!  It has tremendous potential for people around the world.

Fog harvesting mesh.

Fog harvesting mesh and researchers
Image courtesy of Climate Prep & MIT

Here’s how it works:

  • The specialized mesh nets allow air to pass through them, but the specific spacing of the mesh fibers are strategically aligned to encourage the water in the air to condense.
  • Once the water has condensed, the water rolls down the mesh and is collected in basins.

Apparently, this idea is not new, but other systems are comparably inefficient.  Perhaps this is why we haven’t heard much about them yet.  However, this refined MIT material is 5X more efficient at pulling water from the air than any other fog harvesting technique.

mesh water system

View of one of the test fog collectors set up by the MIT team in Chile, as it gathers water in the white plastic drum.
Image via MIT news.
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/how-to-get-fresh-water-out-of-thin-air-0830.html

MIT refinements:

  • The MIT team has tweaked 3 parameters to make their mesh super efficient at pulling water from the air.  They have refined:
    1. the diameter of the filaments in the nets.
    2. the size of the holes between those filaments.
    3. and the coating applied to the filaments.

(The MIT mesh uses stainless-steel filaments which are about three or four times the thickness of a human hair, and with a spacing of about twice that between fibers).

Water from thin air

The technical specs for the mesh system:
Image via the article in the journal Langmuir.
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/how-to-get-fresh-water-out-of-thin-air-0830.html

 

Exactly how good is this stuff. 

The MIT researchers have reported that one square meter of their mesh can produce 12 liters of water per day.

Here’s a video showing the process in action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2invVwyC6k

 

Maintenance:

  • Maintenance is essentially zero. All you need to do is occasionally brush off dust and bugs.
  • Can it get any better?

The MIT team is currently refining the system in the driest place on Earth (Atacama Desert in Chile).  For further reading, here’s a link to a recent MIT news release.

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

5 comments

  1. Dear. Mr. Osborne:
    In the Canary Islands, in Spain it has already been developed a fog harvester http://www.aguadeniebla.com/nrp30.

    Regards to @ll

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Eduardo
      Thanks for the article; that is awesome to see.
      The great thing about the MIT method (that I wrote about), is that they systematically improved on 3 major components of the mesh design.
      As a result, their system is 5x more efficient than any other fog harvesting system.
      That kind of significant improvement could be a major game changer.
      Best,
      Tom

  2. I really like this, where can I buy one? The fog net.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Margaet
      I would to, dont think the advanced version (from MIT) is available yet. However, I will look around for what is possible.
      Best,
      Tom

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