Oct 31, 2019

Sponge-like Nanomaterial Absorbs Water Scarcity Concerns

A think tank and incubator fund called Molecule has created a sponge-like nanomaterial to help HVAC systems save energy and produce water from thin air. 

A think tank and incubator fund called Molecule has created a sponge-like nanomaterial to help HVAC systems save energy and produce water from thin air.

To combat the global water crisis, a sponge-like nanomaterial, designed to be used in existing dehumidifiers, is being used to help heating, ventilation, and air systems (HVAC) save energy and produce water from thin air, according to the Irish Times.

Created by a think tank and incubator fund called Molecule, the material, known as Regeneration Optimized Sorbent 37 (ROS-037), uses tiny holes smaller than a nanometer to capture water. The material regenerates at 49 degrees instead of 204 degrees, which reduces the energy used by existing dehumidifier equipment drastically, according to Molecule.

Standard dehumidifiers vent hot moisture outside, but it’s possible to condense that moisture into pure water when the refrigeration equipment is added to the exhaust stream. 

“It’s got three things that you need in a water harvesting material,” said Michael Zaworotko, a professor at the University of Limerick who studies crystal engineering. “It works at very low humidity so it can work in the middle of the desert just as well as in a humid environment. It has a very low energy for recycling, so you don’t have to use a lot of energy to recover the material and capture the water and do what you want with it. And the third one--and this is the one where almost every existing dessicant fails—is how quickly it captures and releases the water.”

Molecule enlisted the assistance of Zaworotko to screen 30 different materials that his team had previously developed.

A test with a prototype and one kilogram of the material produced one liter of water per hour in cold, dry conditions. Using the material in a large HVAC system on a commercial building could produce thousands of gallons of water an hour, according to Fast Company.

“The beauty is that the technology is super simple,” said Molecule CEO Bjorn Simundson. 

“Because of the material, you can [modify] off-the-shelf dehumidifiers to produce water using just electricity, and it’s fairly light in its power consumption. So doing it as solar- or wind-powered with a battery backup allows you to generate water literally in the middle of nowhere.”

Molecule is currently working to commercialize the material, reported Fast Company

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