Quirks and Quarks·Quirks & Quarks

Pulling water from desert air, just like Star Wars predicted

A new device harvests water from air, powered only by sunlight.
This solar-powered box makes clean drinking water from air. A special powder in the lid extracts water vapour from the air, which is then trapped and condensed inside the box to make drinkable water. (Dr. Evelyn Wang)

A team of scientists from U.C. Berkeley and M.I.T. have made a device that pulls clean drinking water out of thin air. 

The secret behind the device is a water-adsorbing powder specially engineered to capture and release water molecules at certain temperatures. 

At night, the lid containing the powder is exposed to air and collects water. In the morning, the lid is flipped to enclose the water-logged powder inside the box. Sunlight heats up the powder, releasing water vapour into the enclosed box that is condensed and made into make drinkable water.

The device is poised to help large parts of the world's population living in arid regions where access to water is limited.