These Students Have Created a System That Conjures Water Literally out of Thin Air

Only 3 percent of the world’s water is drinkable, two-thirdsof this water resides in frozen glaciers or is otherwise unavailable. Due to this shortage, nearly 1.1 billion people on earth lack access to water.

“At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more,” writes the World Wildlife Fund on their website.

With such statistics in mind, students at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) students in Taiwan have created AQUAIR, a portable fog-harvesting device that grabs potable water from the air. AQUAIR is designed for use in temperate, mountainous regions and can be assembled with the addition of locally sourced materials. The eventual goal is open source production.

The inspiration for this particular project came from Honduras’ water crisis, NCKU design students Wei-Yee Ong, Hsin-Ju Lin, Shih-Min Chang, and Marco Villela wanted to create a working prototype that could be used by rural communities in the second most impoverished nation in Central America. Honduras has a large farming industry which lacks access to clean water, thanks to drought and groundwater contamination.

How does it work?

AQUAIR collects water in a waterproof mesh fabric which is stretched across a pre-fabricated bamboo structure, in order to maximize airflow. What’s unique about AQUAIR’s design is the fan and small centrifuge using gravity in the form of a 30-kilogram weight attached to the framework. It lures water vapor down a tube into an awaiting bucket. The entire structure can be broken down put back together by hand, locally sourced rocks and bamboo can be added to the design for the weight and flexile elements.

“We also want the project to be easy to build and assemble, so the local people can easily access the parts or create their own versions of AQUAIR,” said Marco Villela to Inhabitat. “We do not want the parts to be 3D printed because the material is not strong enough, so the best and cheapest option would be to create a mold and use plastic or ABS injection techniques.

In regards to the gears, we want to get more sturdy and durable gears, so while the cheaper parts of the system can be replaced, the gearbox can last for as long as possible. The project is designed to be easy to assemble and disassemble, also if any part is defective, it is easy and cheap to replace.”

For their innovation work, the student team behind AQUAIR received a Design Mark for innovation in environmental and humanitarian issues as part of the 2017 Golden Pin Concept Design Award.

The Drinkable Book

Other exciting designs for water collection include inventions like a drinkable book. The Drinkable Book was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University as both an educational and filtration-oriented tool.

The coffee filter paper can be used to filter water and reduce 99 percent of bacteria. The book is much smaller than AQUAIR in scale but can provide its reader with clean water for up to four years.

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