Using Solar Energy to Provide Clean Drinking Water

By: Kip Olkowski

Researchers from the Wang Laboratory at MIT and the Yaghi Laboratory at UC Berkeley have designed a device that harvests water out of the air using solar energy. The device does so by using a family of crystalline powders known as metal organic frameworks(MOFs). The structure of this material is such that it can form a continuous 3 dimensional network of metal joints and organic members that behaves like a sponge. The device is opened up during the night to allow air to move across the MOF, which is engineered to hold water molecules. Then, during the day, the device is closed and the sun's heat forces the water molecules to move toward the cooler surface of the condenser where it collects.
 The device is so efficient that it will collect drinking water in even the driest climates on earth. Another innovative feature of the device is that it collects water without the input of electricity. The standalone nature of device means it can be deployed in areas like Ecuador where access to electricity is not consistent and the need for fresh drinking water is high.