The Australian Scientists Turning Air Into Drinking Water, With Renewable Energy

Manufacturing 2,000 litres of drinkable water, extracted from the air (using renewable energy), at a cost of less than two cents per litre.

That’s the challenge set to those entering the Water Abundance XPRIZE, where 98 teams from 25 countries will compete for the $1.75 million. Four Australian teams will take on the challenge, and we spoke to Hydro Harvest Operation (H20) about how they plan to win.

The winning device must be able to create decentralised access to water, giving people the power to access fresh water whenever and wherever they need it.

Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, is head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Newcastle, Director of the Priority Research Centre for Energy Technologies and
Utilisation and the Director of VTara Clean Energy Technology Centre at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources. Professor Moghtaderi is also leading team “Hydro Harvest Operation (H20)” in the competition.

“We’ve been working in areas related to energy, energy efficiency and water for some time and some of the technologies we’ve been working on have actually become commercialised and are now on the market,” Professor Professor Moghtaderi says.

The first one, GRANEX heat engine, is an engine for waste heat recovery, the second, Infratech Energyon demand, is an advanced thermochemical energy storage system, and the third, VAMCO, is a chemical oxidiser for abatement of ventilation air methane.

“In a moment of serendipity, we came across the Water Abundance XPRIZE and thought, well we’ve been working in this area, so why not give it a shot!”, Professor Moghtaderi says.

The team was established about 10 months ago, and Professor Moghtaderi says the requirements of the competition are “very tough”.

“We’ve been trying to minimise costs by working on a concept with an energy footprint that is as small as possible,” Professor Moghtaderi says. “We’re using a combination of renewable materials and renewable energy sources to do that.”

Professor Moghtaderi says this competition is important, because air and moisture are resources accessible anywhere.

“We believe there should be as much emphasis placed on water security as is placed on energy security,” Professor Moghtaderi says. “Some people suggest that future wars will be fought over water resources rather than energy resources.”

The Water Abundance XPRIZE was launched in India in October 2016 at a United Nations day reception in New Delhi. The two-year competition will look to announce up to five finalist teams in February 2018 and will then embark on final testing through July 2018. The winner for the prize will be announced in August 2018.

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