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03

Naturally pulling water from thin air

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Naturally pulling water from thin air

A recent demonstration at the University of Texas at Austin shows a low-cost device that can pull water out of the air.

Cellulose and konjac gum – which are renewable, safe for consumption and easily available – form a gel film that can absorb water from thin air to provide it on-demand.

The article states, “First, the porous structure of the gum attracts water to condense out of the air around it. The cellulose meanwhile is designed to respond to a gentle heat by turning hydrophobic, releasing the captured water.

“Making the gel is also fairly simple, the team says. The basic ingredients are mixed together then poured into a mold, where it sets in two minutes. After that it’s freeze-dried, then peeled out of the mold and ready to get to work. It can be made into basically any shape needed, and scaled up fairly easily and at low-cost.”

The film has proven to work even in dry environments. With humidity at 30 percent, one kilogram of gel produced 13 liters (3.4 gallons) of water per day. With humidity at 15 percent (which is lower than desert air), one kilogram of gel produced more than six liters (1.6 gallons) of water per day.

One kilogram of the film costs only $2, which is a factor in the possibility of making and delivering it to remote areas where water shortage is a problem. Additional information is available in the research, which was published in Nature Communications.

This is not the only recent innovation that can extract water from air, as researchers continue to try to find ways to address water shortages in different areas around the world.

Photo credit: University of Texas at Austin

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