University Research Teams Working on New Ways to Find Water in the Desert
There are cities in South Africa that came very close to running out of clean water this year and even the laws that restrict water use can only mildly stem the water waste that happens everywhere.
Two universities are coming up with new and effective ways to take water out of the desert. Yes, the desert. The two groups of researchers—one at the University of Connecticut, the other at the University of California, Berkeley are trying to find ways to help with the upcoming water crisis by using the humidity in the air to extract water vapor and turn that in to a viable water source, a process known as Adsorption.
Adsorption is a process which plucks water molecules from air that has less than 100% relative humidity by attaching them to the surface of a solid material. The molecules are held there by electrostatic connections called Van der Waals forces that link them with the molecules of the pertinent surface. To collect a lot of water this way therefore requires a material that has two properties. One is a large surface area. The other is an appropriate Van der Waals response. The only other way to make clean and drinkable water is desalination of ocean water. However, it is unsustainable due to the high expense of the process.
The two university teams hope that they have made an easier and more cost effective way in which water can be collected. Doing this depends on that air’s relative humidity. This is a measure of its current vapour content as a percentage of its maximum possible vapor content at its current temperature. A relative humidity of 100% means the air in question is holding as much water vapor as it possibly can. They have had great results and we can only hope that they are successful in their attempts to take water from the air and give it water strapped countries.