Researchers are planning to develop a battery-powered freshwater harvester, according to a report published on August 21, 2018.
This new harvester is lightweight and is expected to, in the near future, could take as much as 10 gallons per hour from the air, even in arid locations. According to the researchers, this nanofiber-based method will be useful in addressing modern water shortages due to climate change, industrial pollution, droughts, and groundwater depletion.
Harvesting water from the air has a long history. Thousands of years ago, the Incas of the Andean region collected dew and channeled it into cisterns. Some research groups recently have been developing massive mist and fog catchers in the Andean mountains and in Africa. Researchers used electrospun polymers, which was already used by the researchers, to miniaturize water generation and improve the efficiency. These nanoscale fiber polymers offer an incredibly high surface-area-to-volume ratio, much larger than that provided by the typical structures and membranes used in water distillers.
Various combinations of polymers that were hydrophilic and hydrophobic were experimented and they came to a conclusion that a water harvesting system could indeed be fabricated using nanofiber technology. Wong’s group determined that their polymer membrane could harvest 744 mg/cm2/h, which is 91 percent higher than similarly designed membranes without these nanofibers.
Shing-Chung (Josh) Wong, Ph.D. said, “We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device.” Researchers are hoping to get additional funding for building a prototype of the freshwater harvester, after which manufacturing will be an inexpensive procedure.