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Scientists develop devices to create drinking water from dry air

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Scientists working in various places in the United States are developing devices that they think could be the answer to droughts and water shortages in arid regions of the world.

Once such concept and device has been developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley.

It uses crystals and solar energy to capture and release water molecules even from arid environments, according to an article published in an April 2017 issue of the peer-reviewed journal “Science,” published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Previously developed technology known as “fog harvesting” is in use in some countries to pull water from environments with close to 100 percent moisture in the air, according to an MIT statement.

The dry-air harvesting method that has been tested on a rooftop at Arizona State University is a passive system that uses porous crystals, known as a metallic-organic framework, to absorb the water molecules, which are then released into a box when sunlight heats the crystal surface. The result is clean, fresh water usable for drinking or other purposes drawn from air with as little as 20 percent moisture, according to the scientists.

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In preliminary testing, the method was able to produce 2.8 liters of water, or close to three quarts, a day for every kilogram of metallic organic framework used, an abstract published online by “Science”

Other scientists commenting on the Science article doubted the efficiency of the method or the amount of drinking water produced, but the MIT and UC Berkeley scientists are expecting that the technology, which they say uses relatively inexpensive materials, can be scaled to create larger reservoirs of water.

Other dry-air water harvesting technologies have been developed as well.

According to June 2017 post of Scientific American, a company in Arizona, Zero Mass Water, in cooperation with Arizona State University scientists, developed a system that starts at $3,700 that uses solar panels to create condensation of water molecules trapped by a proprietary material. According to the post, one solar panel device can produce two to five liters of drinking water a day, and systems have been installed in the United States and in several Middle East countries.

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