MIT researchers develop device that pulls water out of dry desert air

Researchers from MIT have developed a device that could provide drinking water in extremely arid locations. The device has been used in testing to pull drinkable water out of the driest desert air. The scientists say that even in the most arid places on Earth, there is still some moisture in the air.

The device they have made is a concept that was proposed last year and has now been field tested in the dry air of Tempe, Arizona. The concept device worked, and the team says that there is much work left to scale up the process.

MIT's device is based on relatively new high-surface-area materials called metal-organic frameworks or MOFs. That material can extract potable water from the driest desert air with relative humidity as low as 10%. Other methods of extracting potable water from the air require much higher levels of humidity.

100% relative humidity is needed to harvest water from fog and above 50% humidity is needed for dew-harvesting refrigeration-based systems. Those systems also need significant energy for the cooling to work. The test device that the researchers created is powered completely by sunlight, but it was a small proof-of-concept device.

The device has no moving parts making it very simple. Researchers say that the next step is to scale up the system and boost efficiency with the goal of creating a system that can produce liters of water. The test systems in use so far only produced milliliters of water. No traces of impurities were found in the water produced.