New smart airgel extracts water from the air without the need for electricity
Researchers at the National University of Singapore have created a new substance that can extract water from the air without the need for an external power supply. The substance is a smart airgel that could be used to create potable water for people living in environments where clean water to drink is difficult to find. Airgel is a strong material that is exceptionally light.
Looked at under a microscope, it appears to be a sponge, but you don’t need to squeeze it to release the water it absorbs from the air. It doesn’t need electricity to run, and in a humid environment, one kilogram of airgel will produce 17 liters of water per day. The capacity of airgel to absorb water comes from the long molecules called polymers that form the airgel.
Special long-chain polymers consist of a sophisticated chemical structure capable of switching between the attraction and repulsion of water continuously. The team’s smart airgel autonomously collects water molecules from the air, condenses them into a liquid, and releases the water. In the presence of sunlight, intelligent structures can further increase water production by going into a state of total hatred of water.
In this form, 95% of the water vapor that enters the airgel leaves it is water. Laboratory tests have shown that airgel can produce water continuously for months. When the water collected by the airgel was tested, it was found to meet World Health Organization standards for drinking water.
Other researchers found ways to extract water from the air, but these designs required solar or electric power and had moving parts. Currently, the group of researchers is looking for industrial partners to increase the production of airgel for domestic or industrial use.