GE and a team of U.S. universities are building a ‘portable oasis‘ that’s capable of producing hundreds of liters of drinking water per day from air.
The four-year AIR2WATER project is part of DARPA’s Atmospheric Water Extraction (AWE) program. It includes engineers from the Universities of California-Berkeley, South Alabama and Chicago.
The main goal of the project is to reduce the risks involved in transporting potable water to troops in the field. This is significant as nearly 12% of Army casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are related to the transportation of water and fuel.
The AIR2WATER concept resembles a small refrigerator box that can sit on carrying poles, allowing four soldiers to hoist the device on and off a truck.
It is being designed so it contains a dense metal sponge and heat exchanger that work together to mop water from thin air.
Once hooked up to a fuel source, the sponge will suck in the air, while the heat exchanger will precipitate drops of water vapor and suspend them in the air.
The water, which condenses from the vapor, is particulate-free and ready to drink.
The scientists also plan to use 3D printing to make the heat exchanger operate efficiently even at very low flow rate of water and eliminate the need for power-hungry pumps.
Upon completion, the device should be able to deliver around 500 liters of water per day, which means it could churn out around a liter every three minutes – enough for 150 soldiers, notes principal investigator and GE Research technology manager David Moore.
Image and content: GE Research