A Backpack That Could Draw 10 Gallons Water Per Hour Even From Desert Air

backpack draw water from desert air

By Melinda CaffertyNatural Blaze

The idea of a backpack that could draw water out of the air is one that is in development but is already causing people to count the possibilities.

A mechanical engineering professor started out wondering how to treat waste water but then switched gears. He thought, why not create something that could simply draw renewable clean water in the first place?

And if it could be portable, all the better, right?

As GNN reports:

A professor of mechanical engineering is leading a research team to develop a lightweight, battery-powered pack that can harvest water from the air—as many as 10 gallons per hour— even in arid locations.

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The nanofiber-based harvester could help address modern water shortages due to climate change, industrial pollution, droughts and groundwater depletion, especially in dry parts of California, Africa and China. This will also aid residents in South America who live atop mountain ranges higher than rain clouds.

“I was visiting China, which has a freshwater scarcity problem,” said Dr. Shing-Chung Wong of the University of Akron. “There’s investment in wastewater treatment, but I thought that effort alone was inadequate.”


To miniaturize water generation and improve the efficiency, Wong and his UA students turned to electrospun polymers. Electrospinning uses electrical forces to produce polymer fibers ranging from tens of nanometers up to 1 micrometer — an ideal size to condense and squeeze water droplets out of the air. These nanoscale fiber polymers offer a much larger surface-area-to-volume ratio than that provided by the typical structures and membranes used in water distillers.

By experimenting with different combinations of polymers that were hydrophilic — which attracts water — and hydrophobic — which discharges water, the team concluded that a water harvesting system could indeed be fabricated using nanofiber technology.

The device would simultaneously filter the water that it grabs and they wanted it to be small – ideally, the size of a backpack.

Wong told University of Akron,

We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device.

We have no idea about the nanofiber technology referred to in this article, or whether it poses any risk to the environment or humans. It is among the other methods offered in recent times to address the issue of meeting basic needs on a grand scale.

If the team can create the prototype, they figure that replicating the manufacture of the device will be relatively inexpensive.

So while this device does not exist just yet, it is in the realm of reality. It is quite possible that this type of gear would be available in the future.

Another possibility that comes to mind is using this technology to quickly create fertile lands that could produce food for the world. In the meantime, producing water for communities that live in arid parts of the world could free water harvesters up to better their lives in other meaningful ways.

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