Technion team develops novel water-from-air system using desiccants

Standalone platform is energy-efficient, works even in off-grid, desert areas, effectively filters out pollutants and kills bacteria, researchers say

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

From left to right: Technion researchers Professor David Broday, Professor Eran Friedler, Ilan Katz and Liron Houber. (Courtesy/Technion)
From left to right: Technion researchers Professor David Broday, Professor Eran Friedler, Ilan Katz and Liron Houber. (Courtesy/Technion)

Researchers at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology said last week that they have developed a novel, standalone system for producing water from air, even in arid desert regions.

The new system, dubbed H-to-all, differs from existing technologies because of its energy efficiency, the researchers said.

Existing methods of generating water from air cool the entire air mass, then extract the water, which requires a lot of energy since water vapor can only be about three percent of air’s total mass, even at a high level of humidity.

In the Technion system, moisture is first stripped from the air with a desiccant. Then the moisture is removed from the desiccant using heat and sub-atmospheric pressure, and the moisture is condensed into liquid water.

In addition to its efficiency, the system filters the water better than existing methods, the researchers said. When the whole air mass is cooled in the process, so are air pollutants, and they can find their way into the water. The Technion team’s concentrated saline solution used in the desiccant kills bacteria.

The system can be deployed in off-grid areas with solar power and works in any climate, including desert regions.

“Our technology turns water into a commodity as it enables water to be produced anywhere in the world, without being dependent upon existing sources of liquid water. The prototype we have built demonstrates that the system works as expected and we currently work toward turning it into a commercial product,” Prof. David Broday, one of the researchers, said in a statement.

A prototype of a Technion system for extracting water from air. (Courtesy/Technion)

The new technology is not meant to compete in Israel with desalination. Israel is a relatively small, developed nation, with most of its population near the coast, so desalinated water can reach most Israelis easily.

The system is ideal for small, isolated communities that are far from natural water sources, the researchers said.

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