Approximately 85% of the human population lives in the driest half of the planet. Though modernisation has provided humanity with technological advancements to counter the harsh environmental conditions, there is still approximately 800 million people without access to clean drinking water (11% global population) and 2.5 billion without access to adequate sanitation (33% global population). With these terrifying large numbers, what is it there is being done to cut these percentages?
Scientists from MIT and University of California Berkeley have designed a special type of metal organic framework (MOF) that captures water vapor from the air (10% of all freshwater on Earth) and then releases the water as liquid. The MOF acts like a sieve except, like conventional sieves, it captures the water within its porous structure and allows the air to flow through it. This particular MOF is a material comprised of a metal (zirconium) and an organic compound (fumarate). There are a variety of different MOFs that can be comprised of different materials and different pore sizes to capture different compounds; maybe pollution from the air someday.
One of the cool things about this MOF is that the release of water is a passive process, meaning that it doesn’t require energy from human input. By simply placing the frame in direct sunlight, a solar cell converts sunlight into electricity that forces the collected vapor through a condenser to become a liquid. Approximately 3 litres of water can be collected from 1kg of the MOF when placed in an environment with a humidity of 20%. This is absolutely amazing with places like the Sahara Desert having an average humidity of 25%, allowing for even more water to be captured. Not only does this device provide an opportunity for people without clean drinking water but, because of its passive nature of water extraction, there is no need for the investment of new infrastructure to be able to support it. The scaling and distribution of this technology is essential in bringing up the basic standard of living for millions and billions of people around the world. I hope and look forward to something like this being done soon.