MIT News

Potential Life Saver: MIT Discovers How to Pull Water from Air

  • 2 April 2018
  • Sam Mire

Too many inventions are branded as ‘potentially life-saving’, when in reality, the potential for that invention to save lives lies only in the distant future, if it exists at all. Other times, inventions have immediate, apparent applications that could truly be the line between life and death when applied in a pertinent situation. MIT’s latest landscape-altering contraption, a water extraction system designed to work in the driest of climates, falls in the latter category.

According to MIT News, was tested in Tempe, Arizona, one of the most arid climates that the United States has to offer experimenters. A concept paper published in 2017 drew significant attention, but the recently-completed successful tests of the apparatus are considered to be far more significant than the concept paper.

[The concept paper] got a lot of hype, and some criticism, says Hyunho Kim, a former MIT graduate student who has assisted on the project. Now, all of the questions that were raised from last time were explicitly demonstrated in this paper. We’ve validated those points.

Utilizing a system known as a metal-organic framework, or MOF, the device actively seeks out water in even the most H2O-deprived environments, capturing particles that it does locate in its vapor form. It then relies upon a heat source – typically the sun – to separate the water vapor from the framework, and condensation handles the rest of the work in converting that vapor into drinkable water.

The MIT team is convinced that the proof of concept is a vital step in bringing the device to market, as it could be an invaluable tool for both recreational outdoor activities and, more importantly, those who may face potential emergency situations in arid climates.

The advancement we have achieved over our proof-of-concept demonstration last year is the testing of a small-scale prototype in desert conditions where we believe absorption-based water harvesting systems are most practical, Sameer Rao, a post-doctoral research associate who worked on the project, told Digital Trends.

The device differs from most of its predecessors in that those other inventions were dependent upon a certain level of humidity to extract vapor to then convert into drinking water. These systems could require as much as 50% atmospheric humidity, not to mention an array of cooling devices, pumps, etc. The MIT system, contrarily, is simple, compact, and can function in virtually any environment to provide potentially life-saving drinking water to its user(s).

About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.