New tech offers promise of pulling water from thin air

Last Updated 14 November 2019, 19:18 IST

Pulling water from the air has long been the dream of science-fiction writers crafting futuristic worlds, except now, that bit of advanced technology has made it to the world of today.

On the grounds of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (Elcita) on Thursday, passersby took little note of a large, metallic unit which looked like an industrial-grade power supply unit, until they realised that it was actually a sophisticated piece of modern technology, capable of pulling water from the moisture in the air with a flick of a switch.

For Martin Kolodziejczyk, the managing director of Greentec Aqua, a Berlin-based company responsible for developing the technology, the unit (which is called an AWA Modula) is capable of addressing water challenges in underdeveloped parts of India.

When activated with a little green switch, the machine begins sucking in ambient air from the surrounding environment, screening out pollutants with a 0.4 micron-sized double filter.

Refrigerant is then used to condense the air’s water vapour in a cooling battery. At dew point, the water collects in a storage basin and is pumped to the internally integrated water treatment system, which controls the pH of the water, ionises it to kill contaminants and adds minerals, such as calcium.

Within three minutes of the unit’s operation, Kolodziejczyk poured water from a pipe extruding from the unit into cups. A group of marketing students who had been watching took tentative sips before pronouncing the water “normal”.

“It is more than normal. It is 100% drinking water fortified with minerals, which did not require a water source or plumbing going into the unit. A 50-litre storage tub within this 250-litre version of the Module requires about four hours to completely fill,” Kolodziejczyk said.

“All the Modula needs is a power outlet, into which a single-phase plug can be inserted,” he added.

Power costs allegedly amount to three kilowatts per hour and the system needs an environment with at least 10% humidity to function.

While the invention is largely geared towards hospitals, hotels and military facilities, Kolodziejczyk explained that the firm is in talks with corporations, municipal bodies and the army to deploy the technology in remote communities lacking access to clean water.

However, the technology and its promise of Utopian science has been met with scepticism. In Dubai, Kolodziejczyk said he was confronted by a business owner who demanded to know where the water was coming and scoffed at his claims that it was coming from the air. “Only after he realised that there were no water pipes going into the Modula did his jaw drop,” Kolodziejczyk said.

The costs

The company is planning to manufacture 50- and 100-litre versions for home use. Industrial variants are priced from Rs 23 lakh (for the 250-litre version) to Rs 5.5 crore for the 10,000-litre variant.

(Published 14 November 2019, 19:18 IST)

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