Chalk up another point for Frank Herbert; the moisture traps used by his Fremen characters in the Dune series to extract drinkable water from an otherwise bone-dry desert are a technological reality.
Research scientists […] have found a way of converting this air humidity autonomously and decentrally into drinkable water. “The process we have developed is based exclusively on renewable energy sources such as thermal solar collectors and photovoltaic cells, which makes this method completely energy-autonomous. It will therefore function in regions where there is no electrical infrastructure,” says Siegfried Egner, head of department at the IGB. The principle of the process is as follows: hygroscopic brine – saline solution which absorbs moisture – runs down a tower-shaped unit and absorbs water from the air. It is then sucked into a tank a few meters off the ground in which a vacuum prevails. Energy from solar collectors heats up the brine, which is diluted by the water it has absorbed.
Because of the vacuum, the boiling point of the liquid is lower than it would be under normal atmospheric pressure. This effect is known from the mountains: as the atmospheric pressure there is lower than in the valley, water boils at temperatures distinctly below 100 degrees Celsius. The evaporated, non-saline water is condensed and runs down through a completely filled tube in a controlled manner. The gravity of this water column continuously produces the vacuum and so a vacuum pump is not needed. The reconcentrated brine runs down the tower surface again to absorb moisture from the air.
Crafty stuff… and if climate change brings the increased desertification that some suggest it will, there’ll be a lot of people in need of technology just like this. [via SlashDot; image by Gret@Lorenz]
On a similar note, here’s an architectural concept that uses a similar process to extract potable water from air humidity on hot sunny coastlines…