As droughts hit many parts of the world, water becomes increasingly precious. But the air we breathe is full of water. There is more water in the air than in all the rivers on earth combined. If only we could stick a straw in it. A tech start-up found a way to do this. Type of. The company is SOURCE Global and its pioneering hydropanels are operational in places like Saudi Arabia, Western Australia and the Warm Springs Reservation in arid central Oregon.
Here, four-by-eight-foot panels buzz all day and turn off at night. They are set up on cinder blocks and not attached to anything. Each weighs about 340 pounds dry, but gets heavier as they slowly fill with water picked up from the surrounding atmosphere. A series of fans draws air into each panel, where it is moved through a hygroscopic mesh material that separates the water from the oxygen. The same sunlight that drives the fans provides heat that drives condensation and allows water to collect in an internal reservoir. If you've ever built a solar still to collect condensed water for drinking in the wild, you've got the idea.
After producing pure, distilled water, the panel pumps the water into a faucet. If the line is not opened, the water circulates internally to keep it pure until someone drains it. It's full again the next day – as long as it's sunny outside.
To replicate our usual drinking water for taste and health, water is forced through a mineral profile package. Source Global PBC
The hydro panels work independently of the mains and are self-contained. If they look like solar panels, that's because solar energy powers their internal electronics. Each panel produces about a gallon and a half of water per day, depending on climate conditions.
"This is technology that was developed in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, where relative humidity is below 10 percent for significant parts of the year where dehumidifiers don't work," said Colin Goddard, senior director of SOURCE Global. "We are uniquely able to produce water in these places."
SOURCE Global is not the only company that has developed a device that produces drinking water from the air. Exaeris' AcquaTap, which debuted at CES 2021, has a similar function but is designed as a portable device for recreational users.
SOURCE says its mission is to bring clean water to communities where access is otherwise difficult.
"We source an average of 160 gallons a day," says Jim Souers, CEO of Warm Springs Economic Development Corporation. In a place where drinking water infrastructure is urgently needed, the panels are a brilliant solution.
Subscribe to YouTube for access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews and more!