Inventors Win Award for Machine that Creates Water from Air

28 October, 2018

Water is a necessary resource for the health and survival of living things. But the availability of fresh water is decreasing for much of the world's population.

The United Nations estimates that about 3.6 billion people currently live in areas that face water shortages at least once a month. Officials expect this number to keep rising with continued population growth, economic development and climate change.

Many companies and non-profit organizations have attempted to find new ways to deal with the crisis. One of them is The Skysource/Skywater Alliance, an American business in Venice, California. Experts there developed a machine that can make water from air.

The invention is seen as having great promise. It won an international award for proposed solutions to ease the world's water crisis. The system's creators were awarded the XPrize for Water Abundance. The award – which includes a $1.5-million prize – sought ideas for "creating water from thin air."

The husband and wife team of David Hertz and Laura Doss-Hertz won the award. They are the co-founders of The Skysource/Skywater Alliance.

Hertz owns a business that specializes in creating environmentally friendly homes. But he decided to begin water experiments when he learned that water can be made from air under the right conditions.

The Skysource/Skywater Alliance co-founders David Hertz, left, and his wife Laura Doss-Hertz pose for a portrait next to their invention Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The Skysource/Skywater Alliance co-founders David Hertz, left, and his wife Laura Doss-Hertz pose for a portrait next to their invention Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Hertz and Doss-Hertz worked with another partner to build a small machine that was able to produce about 570 liters of water a day. Then, Hertz heard about the XPrize. He and his team decided to create a larger water-making machine to compete for the award.

The competition had three main requirements. Devices had to produce at least 2,000 liters of water per day from the atmosphere. They had to operate at a cost of no more than 2 cents per liter. And the devices had to use 100 percent renewable energy.

Hertz and his team settled on a design built from shipping containers. The device heats up wood pieces to warm the air and produce humidity. Water is then collected from the process.

Hertz told the Associated Press that his team chose shipping containers because they do not cost a lot of money and are generally easy to move. And there are a lot of them.

If wood is not available, Hertz says people can use other materials to produce heat. These could include coconut pieces, rice, walnut shells, cut grass or many kinds of waste material.

Matthew Stuber is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is also an expert on water systems. He served as a judge for the XPrize.

He told the AP that the winning team's design can make the machine useful in many areas of the world that have serious water issues. "Certainly in regions where you have a lot of biomass this is going to be a very simple technology to deploy," he said.

Stuber called the invention a "really cool" mix of simple technologies. He said this makes it easier for the devices to be moved quickly to provide water to areas hit by natural disasters or drought.

Hertz and Doss-Hertz told the AP that bringing machines to people is now one of their main goals. They plan on using their new prize winnings to help make it a reality.

"Laura and I have committed to using all (the money) for the development and deployment of these machines," Hertz said. "To get them to people who need the water most."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on a report by the Associated Press and other online sources. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

renewable adj. any naturally occurring source of energy, such solar or wind

humidity n. measurement of how much water is in the air

region n. particular area in a country or the world

biomass n. dead plant and animal material suitable for using as fuel

drought n. a long period when there is little or no rain