January 30, 2018
Turning Sunlight and Air into Drinking Water Is Now a Reality
As the ongoing water shortage in Cape Town shows, we should never take our water supply for granted.
Droughts, earthquakes and pollution are just some of the things that can lead to clean water becoming scarce. And without access to clean water, people can rapidly lose their hydration, hygiene – and ultimately their health.
To give you just one example, it’s estimated that 842,000 people a year lose their lives to diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, hand hygiene and sanitation. I’m sure you’ll agree, these are shocking numbers.
According to the World Health Organization, 3 out of every 10 people in the world lack access to safe, readily available water at home. This equates to an unbelievable 2.1 billion people.
Clearly, lack of clean water is a major problem in our world.
Given the scale of the problem, it’s no surprise to see a growing number of individuals and companies putting their passion and creativity into finding solutions. One such company is Zero Mass Water, who has developed a product (called Source) that at first glance seems too good to be true. However, read on to discover how their innovative technology has already been deployed successfully across the world.
What Is Source?
Source is a compact Hydropanel™ that works completely off-grid to create drinking water from just sunlight and air.
It does this through advanced water capture technology that consists primarily of:
- Two solar panels
- A compact battery
- Proprietary porous material that generates heat
- Proprietary material that absorbs the moisture from the air
- A water storage compartment
I know what you’re thinking… “How does this set up produce water?” I had the very same thought myself when first hearing about Source.
Well, I won’t bore you with the technical details, all you really need to know is: Humidity from the air is pulled into the device and converted into drinking water.
Now, obviously, the more humidity in the air – the more water Source will produce. However, you may be surprised to learn that even in incredibly dry areas with below 5% relative humidity (think Grand Canyon in Arizona) – Source still produces water.
What Benefits Does It Offer?
The first thing to know is that a typical residential Source array produces an average of 4-10 liters of water each day (or 8-20 16.9oz standard water bottles), depending on sunshine and humidity. And not only can Source store up to 30 liters of water, but it also has an ingenious on-board pump that produces 80 psi line pressure. This allows the stored water to be delivered to an in-sink dispenser and/or a refrigerator and integrated ice-maker.
As Source can operate completely independently, it’s the ideal water solution for places that have limited infrastructure. And when natural disasters strike, Source can be a lifesaver – providing safe drinking water to affected people.
Isolated schools and medical facilities can also use Source to maintain a constant and essential supply of clean drinking water.
One other application of Source that I particularly like, is its potential benefits for wildlife. For instance, Source arrays can be installed in drought-stricken areas to provide parched animals with fresh water to help keep them hydrated and alive.
What’s the Story Behind Source?
Zero Mass Water was founded by Cody Friesen, who is now the company’s chief executive.
Friesen spent more than six years designing and testing his water-harvesting technology, with assistance from Arizona State University (where he used to teach engineering and materials science).
It’s obvious that Friesen’s hard work has paid off. In a recent interview with The Verge, Friesen said that Source panels are already operational in places such as hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, and schools and orphanages for refugees in Lebanon. In November 2017, Source panels also went on sale to consumers in the U.S.
While the technology is certainly impressive, the current pricing puts it out of the range of most people. For example, a typical setup for a home costs around $4,500. That’s $2,000 for two Source panels and a $500 fee for installation. (The company claims an average five-year payback time.)
Until prices come down, I believe that Source’s best use will be in providing drinking water to communities that don’t currently have access to it. And as I mentioned at the start of this article, that’s about 2.1 billion people! Clearly, disaster-relief organisations could be Source’s best partner.
In the long term, it’s also possible that Source will be able to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution. According to Friesen, a two-panel Source set up may help to remove 70,000 plastic water bottles from circulation. (Based on the lifetime of the panels.)
So, from saving lives to reducing plastic pollution, Source appears to be just what the world needs right now.
Please visit the Zero Mass Water website for more information on Source.
Craig J Todd – Freelance writer with a passion for tech, trends and simplicity.
Connect with Craig via Twitter.