Scientists invent technology to harvest clean water from ocean air

Climate change is a problem that several regions of the world have had to deal with for several years now. Dry areas are among the most vulnerable because this climatic phenomenon makes them even drier. It is a rather ironic situation when you know that 72% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. The problem is that much of this water is undrinkable, as more than 96% of all water on Earth consists of the oceans. To solve the problems of water scarcity in the world, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) propose to take advantage of the process of natural oceanic desalination. it is harvest water vapor above sea level to obtain drinking water fresh.

The natural desalination process

The ocean is a huge potential reservoir of water. But desalination is a long and expensive process, which complicates implementation. In nature, there is a process that converts seawater into steam. This happens when the Sun heats the surface of the sea and evaporates the water. This evaporated water will later turn into rain.

Graphical representation of a new system that could harvest natural water vapor above the sea to provide drinking water for coastal cities. Photo credit: Praveen Kumar and Nature Scientific Reports

An innovative way to get water

The new study, recently published in the journal scientific reports, offers toutilizes natural desalination thanks to structures installed several kilometers offshore. The latter will have the role of capturing the air at the surface of the ocean, which is particularly rich in water vapor. The air will then be sent ashore and another system will be used to condense it into water. According to the authors of the study, the entire system could be powered by offshore wind farms and onshore solar panels.

Fourteen cities around the world were assessed during the survey, including Rome, Los Angeles, Barcelona and Abu Dhabi. Depending on the atmosphere of these areas, the amount of water that can be extracted there has been specially studied. According to the theory, a 100 m high and 210 m wide steam extraction structure will be required for the project. According to the models made by the researchers, the system could generate almost 37.6 to 78.3 billion liters of water per year, depending on the conditions in the region. For an assumed consumption of 300 l of water per person per today, they found that two to ten units would be sufficient to serve an entire city.

A solution to water shortages

For the UIUC team, the method is very innovative because it functions mainly as the natural water cycle. But instead of turning into a cloud, the water vapor is channeled and directed to places where water is scarce. The seawater vapor harvesting system is highly innovative as it is unlikely to become less feasible as climate change progresses. According to Afeefa Rahman, co-author of the study, climate projections show that the flow of ocean vapor will increase again over time, providing even more supplies of fresh water. According to him, the idea they are proposing would be feasible in the context of climate change. It would provide an indispensable and effective approach to adapt this phenomenon, especially for populations living in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. More information: news.illinois.edu

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