Technion team gets prize for water-from-heat tech
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Technion team gets prize for water-from-heat tech

Mauerberger Foundation award, granted for the first time, aims to strengthen academic ties and exchange of ideas between researchers in Israel and Africa

Illustrative image of hands of African children cupped under tap of water (borgogniels; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of hands of African children cupped under tap of water (borgogniels; iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at the Technion Institute of Technology and their partners in Africa have received a prize for the development of a technology that creates water from heat, which aims to provide clean water to third world countries.

The recipients of the newly set up Mauerberger Foundation Fund (MFF) Research Award for Transformative Technologies for Africa are Prof. Yehuda Agnon, Associate Prof. Mark Talesnick and Asst. Prof. Guy Ramon, along with Leslie Petrick of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa and Mekelle University in Ethiopia. Also receiving the award were three NGOs: Technion’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB), South Africa’s FLOW and Ethiopia’s Drop of Water.

The scientists have developed a low-cost system powered by renewable energy to extract water from humidity in the air. The technology is different from other techniques that generate water from air in that it converts heat into mechanical power in the form of an acoustic wave. This wave acts as a “virtual piston” that is capable of performing a cooling action.

The technology does not require electricity, as it uses only local heat.

The Phase Exchange Thermoacoustics (PXT) technology developed by the Technion researchers is thus “a candidate for low cost, small scale conversion” devices for rural and developing areas, said the Technion’s Ramon.

Jonathan Yach a trustee of the Mauerberger Foundation Fund (MFF) Research Award for Transformative Technologies for Africa at an award ceremony in Haifa in June, 2019 (Technion Spokesperson department)

“Combining nanotechnologies that have been developed at the University of Western Cape, with which humidity can be efficiently captured, and the Technion’s PXT technology, we plan to develop a robust and low-cost system for atmospheric humidity harvesting, powered by renewable energy,” he said. “Ultimately, the system will be tested in Ethiopia.”

The Mauerberger Foundation prize aims to strengthen academic ties and the exchange of ideas between researchers in Israel and Africa to “harness new technologies for the benefit of humanity.”

The award, open to researchers from all universities in Israel, was awarded for the first time this year.

“Technology and high-tech are wonderful things… our grandfather, Morris Mauerberger, founded the award to make technology available to people who do not normally enjoy it,” said Jonathan Yach, a trustee of the fund, at the award ceremony last month in Haifa. “This is the first year that the prize was awarded, and this year we focused on water. Water is a vital resource, and as the biologist, Sylvia Earl said, ‘There may be water without life, but there can be no life without water.’”

The second recipient of the award was a group of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Profs. Yoram Oren, Zeev Ronen and Jack Gilron. researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at the Ben-Gurion University, are developing an advanced technology for treating contaminated groundwater. The set of membranes they are developing will help purify water from nitrates and chlorides. The tech will initially target contaminated wells in Ghana.

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