by Brian Oaster
As drought ravages many parts of the world, water is becoming ever more precious. But the air we breathe is full of water. There’s more water in the air than in all of Earth’s rivers combined. If only we could stick a straw in it. One tech start-up has found a way to do that. Sort of. The company is SOURCE Global and its breakthrough hydropanels are in operation in places like Saudi Arabia, Western Australia and the Warm Springs Reservation in arid central Oregon.
Here, four-by-eight-foot panels hum through the day and shut off at night. They’re set up on cinder blocks, not plugged into anything. Each weighs about 340 pounds dry, but get heavier as they slowly fill with water absorbed from the surrounding atmosphere. A row of fans draws air into each panel, where it’s moved through a hygroscopic mesh material, which separates the water from the oxygen. The same sunlight that powers the fans provides heat that drives condensation, allowing water to gather in an internal reservoir. If you’ve ever built a solar still to gather condensation for drinking in the wild, you get the idea.
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