785 million people lack safe access to drinking water , but a mushroom-like airgel can help at least some of them. The airgel, developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore, can capture the water in the air .
The airgel consists of long polymers that are combined with porous structures called metal-organic frameworks. It gives a very large area in relation to the weight. The chemical properties of the airgel mean that different parts of it attract and repel water.
In practice, this means that the airgel absorbs water molecules that are in the air, condenses them into water and then lets it flow out as drinking water. In tests carried out by the researchers, one kilogram of the material could produce 17 liters of water per day. The quality of the water also met the WHO's requirements for it to be used as drinking water. '
Now there are already solutions that can also create drinking water out of the air. For example, we have previously written about a method that uses solar and hydropanels to produce the water . There are also very simple solutions that basically only capture condensation in large nets .
The solution from the National University of Singapore ends up somewhere between these solutions. It does not require electricity like the hydropanels and is more efficient than just setting up networks. If the sun is shining, the airgel can convert 95 percent of the moisture in the air into drinking water. If the sun is not shining, the efficiency decreases slightly, but the airgel still produces water.
As the airgel does not need any electricity, it can be used anywhere in the world. It can also be used quickly as it does not need any existing infrastructure. This means that it can function both as a permanent water source and as an emergency aid in the event of a temporary drought. The fact that it is very light and does not contain any moving parts means that it can be easily transported and does not need to be repaired.
- As the water vapor in the atmosphere is constantly replenished by the hydrological cycle, our invention provides a promising solution to sustainably produce fresh water in many different climates at a minimal energy cost, says Professor Ho Ghim Wei at the National University of Singapore and the one who led the project.