A machine that makes water from the air even in dry climates and with five-times the efficiency of previously developed devices hopes to solve the world’s water shortage problem.
The hybrid atmospheric water generator (HAWgen), developed by a team from Canada’s Simon Fraser University, produces clean drinkable water by sucking in a stream of ambient air, from which it removes the water molecules with an adsorption system. The water vapour is then channelled into a refrigeration unit where it condensates into the liquid form. The final step involves filtering to remove impurities.
"Our vision is for this technology to not only make a difference as we face the ongoing issue of global water shortage, but to do so sustainably for future generations," explained Professor Majid Bahrami, who developed HAWgen together with his PhD student Farshid Bagheri.
The patent-pending water generator can be powered either by waste heat energy or other renewable resources.
Bahrami stressed that the system doesn’t cause any imbalances in the atmosphere as all the removed water vapour is naturally replenished with water evaporated from the ocean and other water bodies. The Earth’s atmosphere holds almost 13 trillion cubic meters of water and in some of the most arid areas might be the only available source of fresh drinkable water.
Atmospheric water generation has been explored in the past but most of the existing devices only work in hot and humid climates and struggle in drier environments.
Bahrami's technology is being commercialised through a spin-out company Watergenics, which has recently received Canada’s 2016 Clean50 Award and was shortlisted for a BC Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) 2016 Technology Impact Award in the most-promising pre-commercial technology category.
In developing HAWgen, Bahrami has relied on his experience working on technology for better efficiency of heating and cooling systems for vehicles, electronics and buildings.
The atmospheric water generator, which, the inventor says should be in the market by the end of 2017, will be trialled in the Simon Fraser University’s new agri-tech innovation hub to sustainably source water for a plant growth facility.
The technology could be used everywhere, where it is difficult to get other reliable access to drinking water – this includes the world’s arid areas but also those struck by natural disaster. The researchers envision that industries operating in extreme environments such as mining and oil and gas could also be interested.