MIT’s latest invention pulls clean drinking water out of thin air

mit device water from sky 2018 harvester in action
MIT
MIT

For people in the world without easy access to drinkable water, the idea of being able to pull it straight out of the sky, even in the driest of desert regions, would quite literally be a lifesaver. That is something that researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been working on with a revolutionary new water extraction system.

The device uses a custom metal-organic framework (MOF) to seek out water and trap it in the form of vapor. It then uses a source heat, such as the sun, to separate the vapor molecules from the metal-organic framework. Thanks to condensation, what results is drinkable water — and an astonishing bit of technology.

We covered the team’s work in 2018 when they had just demonstrated the technology as a proof of principle. Now they’ve put it through its paces by field testing it in the dry air of Tempe, Arizona to prove efficacy. The extremely promising results bring the project one step closer to its exciting conclusion.

“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. “In addition, we have made several design improvements which enabled operation at greatly improved efficiencies. By careful design and optimization, we developed a device which is well suited for operation in arid conditions and under negative dew points in which competing commercially mature technologies such as refrigeration-based dewing cycles are infeasible.”

While they are still using a miniature prototype for testing purposes, the researchers believe that a scaled-up version of the extraction system could output more than a quarter-liter of water per day per kilogram of MOF.

“We are currently working on developing a large-scale prototype, one that would be able to sustain the drinking water needs of a family in remote and arid areas,” Rao continued. “There are certainly interesting questions we are working to answer and enable higher operational efficiencies and simultaneously demonstrate the scalability of our approach.”

Emerging Tech

Self-correcting quadcopter can keep itself aloft even if one rotor fails

Most quadcopters won't fly unless all four rotors are functioning. But what happens if one gets damaged during flight? Researchers from the Netherlands think they've come up with a solution.
Emerging Tech

Shrimp eyes inspire new camera focused on helping self-driving cars see better

By mimicking the vision of mantis shrimp, researchers were able to make significant improvements on today’s commercial cameras. They hope their technology can help mitigate accidents by letting self-driving vehicles see more clearly.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Cars

Watch this driverless Range Rover tackle one of U.K.’s ‘most challenging roads’

Jaguar Land Rover just sent its autonomous Range Rover Sport vehicle onto one of the U.K.'s "most challenging road layouts," and the automaker has posted a video online showing exactly how it fared.
Emerging Tech

This intelligent parachute system can bail out clumsy drone pilots

Parachutes can save drones when they unexpectedly fall from the sky. Among a number of such systems, Austrian firm Drone Rescue is this week showing off its latest design that automatically deploys when it senses trouble.
Cars

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Emerging Tech

Tokyo robotic warehouse needs almost no human workers

Uniqlo has unveiled its first robot-powered warehouse that requires 90 percent fewer human workers to operate. The Japanese clothing giant plans to invest close to $1 billion dollars to convert all of its warehouses worldwide.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

Drop everything and watch Boston Dynamics’ robo-dog dance to ‘Uptown Funk’

After a few years of Earthbound training, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dog is ready to take on Mars. Bruno Mars, to be precise. Check out Skynet's future pet as you've never seen it before.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.
Emerging Tech

This gadget lets you sleep on airplanes without snuggling a stranger

Odd gadget, or a hug for your face? The Napup Fly+ is a travel pillow, sleep mask, and personal speaker system all rolled into one, attached to the back of the headrest to hold your head up.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Healthy mice born from two genetic mothers using stem cells, gene editing

Healthy mice have been born from two genetics mothers and later went on to bear healthy offspring of their own, according to a recent paper published by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Emerging Tech

Japanese scientists are chewing over an ‘electric gum’ that never loses flavor

Researchers at Japan's Meiji University may have found the secret to unlimited chewing gum -- and it just involves zapping your tongue with electricity. Here's what makes it all work.