Almost all of us have grown up to stories of zany magicians from distant wonderlands who could create water out of thin air to save lives in parched deserts. A marvel like this is sure to evoke awe, especially now when this fairy tale element is a scientific reality. Yes, you read that right. Skysource/Skywater Alliance has designed a futuristic device which can extract up to 2,000 litres of water from the atmosphere in a day. Moreover, the device runs completely on clean energy, costing less than 2 cents per litre of pure water.
The stunning invention earned Skysource/Skywater Alliance the first rank at Water Abundance Xprize along with a monetary prize of $1.5 million.
How the system works
Led by California-based architect David Hertz, the Skywater team started working on the project in 2016 when Xprize announced the competition to develop a device that creates water from the air. Keeping in mind the primary requisite of the project, which is zero usage of non-renewable resources, the team came up with a new technology termed WEDEW (wood-to-energy deployed water). The machine, which resembles a large cargo container, can generate artificial clouds within itself from atmospheric moisture, which in turn is condensed to give pure drinking water. However, this entire process initially consumed a lot of electricity. To do away with the problem, the designers substituted the energy source with an inexpensive and sustainable biomass-gasifier, which supplies power from everyday materials like wood chips, coconut shells etc. In addition, the machine leaves “biochar” as residue, which can be a potent fertiliser for plants. Team leader David Hertz confidently asserts that this is a carbon-negative technology. He hopes that the Skywater device will pave the way for more regenerative scientific discoveries to restore the damage humanity has already inflicted on the planet.
Many communities have benefitted
Skywater has already installed their units in drought-hit areas of developing countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Philiphines. Communities which were perpetually affected by water scarcity have benefitted immensely. With the prize money, the team aims to collaborate with international non-profit organisations to develop and install more units in areas with persistent drought or polluted water. The beauty of the Skywater machine is that it can run on solar power as well in sparsely vegetated areas.
Statistics reveal that more than 800 million people worldwide already suffer from the water crisis and estimates suggest this problem is only going to intensify in the future. Desalination is the most recognised solution, however, it is highly expensive. The atmosphere retains around 12 quadrillion gallons of water as moisture, which if harnessed in a sustainable manner, can solve the crisis. The Xprize Water Abundance initiative was launched with this motto by Zenia Tata, who is the chief impact officer of Xprize at present. Apart from Skysource/Skywater Alliance, JMCC Wing from Hawaii was chosen as the runner-up, for their water generating device from a wind turbine. The following video shows the two winning devices and the brains behind them.