Accessing an Ocean in the Sky

Jan. 3, 2017

About the author: Benjamin Blumenthal is co-founder and CEO of Sun to Water Technologies LLC. Blumenthal can be reached at [email protected].


Historically, drawing water from air has been an expensive process that is not as effective in the arid regions where it would be most useful. However, Sun to Water Technologies LLC is working to make this process cheaper and more effective by designing products to offer energy independence and provide water. Benjamin Blumenthal, co-founder and CEO of Sun to Water Technologies, spoke with WQP Associate Editor Michael Meyer about the technology.

MICHAEL MEYER: Please explain how this technology works.

BENJAMIN BLUMENTHAL: It’s a three-step process. In the first step, ambient air is blown across a salt-based absorbing element. This is how we get water out of the air and into the unit. In the second phase—the extraction process—heat is applied to the desiccant, and the water is baked into steam, which is then collected and cooled, resulting in pure distilled water. That would be perfect if you wanted to use it for agricultural purposes—it’s ready to go. But in the event you want it for human consumption, [the third step] is a re-mineralization process.

There are five ways in which we differ [from a traditional dehumidification process]. The first way is that, because we’re moving air and not Freon from a coil, we use 70% less power. Number two, as a result of using 70% less power, our water is four to five times less expensive per gallon. The third is that traditionally, refrigerant-based technology cannot make clean water out of dirty air; our technology can make clean water even in the most extreme polluted environments. The fourth main area is that refrigerant-based technology simply can’t work below 35% relative humidity. We are, in fact, able to produce water in a 14% relative humidity environment. What that means is that if a person can live in that environment, we can make water for them. That’s a meaningful component—we can make water in the desert from the desert air using the desert sun. Because of that 70% lower power consumption, solar-only is an easy option now. The final piece is that we have really strong distribution and manufacturing partners, and we’ll be offering an extensive warranty on the unit.

We believe as a company that every person has a right to fresh, clean drinking water. On a domestic level here in the United States, what we saw happen in Flint, Mich., should never happen again. We hope to be a part of the solution—to make sure that everyone who needs fresh drinking water has it when they need it.

There’s water all around you. There’s an ocean above your head, but if you don’t have a water generator, you can’t drink that water. You have people and children who are literally dying of dehydration—[it is the] number six killer on the plant, according to World Health Organization. On a humanitarian level, internationally, this is truly a game-changing technology. And that’s part of what we’re about. As a company, we measure our return on investment both in dollars and cents and in lives saved.

MEYER: What types of customers will find this technology most useful?

BLUMENTHAL: We have two separate products for two separate customers. Our residential unit is designed for people who like off-grid living. We can get homes ... off the water grid. This provides every person, for their home or their business, an independent and secure supply of water. The residential product can produce 40 to 100 gal of water every day.

Our second product can produce 1,600 to 4,000 gal of water per day in a containerized unit. It’s an appropriate size for businesses and for the military to provide water to our bases and to our troops in forward positions who need water.

MEYER: Does it comply with all state regulations?

BLUMENTHAL: Right now, there are no state regulations regarding atmospheric water generation, because it’s such a new field.

Our system is different because [after] it goes through the absorbing element of our desiccant and is converted to steam, you are left with distilled water. It’s re-mineralized only with those things the human body needs—calcium, magnesium, etc.—which basically means it’s like taking a bottle of Smartwater or Evian and pouring it down the drain. From that perspective, we are actually providing back into the municipal system water that is of a higher quality than what comes out of the tap.