The technology relies on hydrogels, gel-polymer hybrid materials designed to be “super sponges” that can retain large amounts of water
Researchers at the University of Texas have developed a novel solar-powered harvesting system that absorbs moisture from the air and converts it into clean, usable water.
The researchers led by Guihua Yu used hydrogels that are both highly water absorbent and can release water upon heating.
This unique combination successfully worked in humid and dry weather conditions and is crucial to enabling the production of clean, safe drinking water from the air, the researchers said.
Fei Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher on Yu’s team, explained that the collected water will remain stored in the hydrogel until it is exposed to sunlight. After about five minutes under natural sunlight, the water releases, he said.
To help address water crises in developing countries
The technology could be used in disaster situations, water crises or poverty-stricken areas and developing countries.
According to the researchers, the device requires only solar power and can produce enough water to meet the daily needs of an average household.
Prototype tests showed daily water production of up to 50 litres per kilogramme of hydrogel, they said.
This new device is based on a 2018 breakthrough made by the researchers in which they developed a solar-powered water purification innovation using hydrogels that cleans water from any source using only solar energy.
This time they went a step further by using the water that already exists in the atmosphere.
(With inputs from PTI)