Clean water. Having it can make a difference between surviving or not. What if this vital resource could be pulled out of thin air? A breakthrough by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin does just that.
“This hydrogel we have developed is a special kind of material that can absorb the water from the atmosphere,” says engineer Guihua Yu. Yu and his research team at the Cockrell School of Engineering developed a new hydrogel that is both highly water absorbent and can release water upon heating. Responding to sunlight, this black gel absorbs moisture from the air and returns it as clean, usable water.
Harvesting water from moisture is not exactly a new concept. Most refrigerators keep things cool through a vapor condensation process. But that uses up a lot of energy, and some developing countries don’t have that option. That is where Yu and his team hope hydrogel can have a significant impact.
“We think our hydrogel can actually be used for household needs because it can produce water about 25 to 30 liters per day with at least one-quarter meter of this material,” says Yu.
According to the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people live without access to clean water. This new invention could provide a basic human need for people across the globe.