So Simple It's Brilliant: A Machine that Makes Drinking Water from Air

By Boonsri Dickinson | November 26, 2008 3:33 pm

water1.jpgAt a time when only one in six people on the planet have access to water and bottled water is not always the most practical (or environmentally sound) option, inventors are busy trying to turn just about anything into water. If you thought astronauts drinking water from urine was a bit gross, then drinking water made from air might sound like a far more appealing option. And now, the Canadian company Element Four’s Water Mill has determined a way to take moisture from the air and turn it into drinkable water.

The machine is the size of a large golf ball cut in half , and it runs off the “electricity of about three light bulbs.” It works by pumping air through filters to get rid of dust and other particles, and then cools the purified air until water starts to condense. Then the condensed water goes through a UV light unit to clean it so bacteria won’t get in it and cause infections or disease.

The benefits of the machine are two-fold: Besides getting cleaner air, you’d also get up to 12 liters a day of clean drinking water. And for those who live in dry places like Colorado, Ritchey has outfitted the Water Mill with a computer that senses changes in humidity so that more water is produced.

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Image: flickr / Obi-Akpere

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Rémi
  • red

    Great concept but how many cubic meters of air does it have to filter to those 12 liters per day. Is it 12 liters per day in the Congo and 1 liter per water production in the Sahara?

  • Jeremy

    That’s what I was thinking Remi. Another thing, isn’t this distilled water? Just add minerals…

  • Jim

    It’s being done already in Israel

  • Shawn Charladn

    Positive: Good, approachable and interesting writing. Negative: I like short science articles, but I’d like to see them do a bit more to proactively promote critical thinking in readers.

    Not to be a Philistine, but the most important part is left out: How much energy is required to operate it? If it takes a small nuclear reactor, it’s a National Enquirer story. If it runs on solar power, it’s ground breaking. In the middle: potentially promising technological development.

  • Steve

    *** TickleMe Plant ** It MOVES!
    That is amazing. Another article that caught my attentiom was about that plant that MOVES when you Tickle It. The TickleMe Plant closes its leaves and even the branches MOVE when Tickled. There seems to be conflicting theories on why and how it closes. I found a great site about it. I am excited about growing the plant with my kids
    as it can be grown indoors. Has anyone seen any recent research as to why the leaves fold up
    and exactly what causes it to do that?

  • Trocisp

    “electricity of about three light bulbs”

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  • Uncle Al

    Start by calculating the enthalpy of vaporization of water at 5 C. Then figure out how much electricity you need to grab a liter of water, plus other operating losses. Might as well smelt aluminum and sell it for water. Oh yeah… what is the average relative humidity of desert areas? Southern California routinely hits sustained single digets during Santa Ana winds.

  • Blythe

    Who’s “Ritchey”?

  • Shaun T

    We have had similiar systems in South-east Asis for years and I have done a lot of research into these systems. As far as I can tell, there is a potential problem in that generating water in a stale climate, such as an air-conditioned room, can lead to a bacteria build-up. Although it can be filtered out, it is a little disturbing to think of bacteria living in the holding tank.

    has anyone else come across this?

  • Don Greg

    hardly brilliant, or simple. basically like your dehumidifier at home: you know how the basin fills with water? Energy will be a significant cost – not a solution for the 3rd world clean water problems. Nice that it has bacteria control, but after the water leaves it will be vunerable to bacterial growth, depending on how it is stored. certainly has use in places where water that can be used for drinking is very scarce and where energy is not expensive, or for use in high end suburban homes where people have lots of money, love gadgets and not very concerned about energy use.

  • Ben

    Wow my AC has been doing this for years and years. Its not really an invention. Its all based off of the relative humidity, which in FL is about 100% all the time.

  • SeattleGuy

    About the size of a “large golf ball cut in half”? That’s wrong. Golf balls only come in one size. It’s about 3 FEET in diameter, although it does have some dimples which one pundit stated ‘looked like a large golf ball cut in half’. Anyway, read about it for yourself and don’t rely on someone else’s poor reporting.

  • Don

    Unfortunately, they’re marketing it as a ‘home appliance’. If they could make a solar-powered version that had self-cleaning (or washable) filters, it could help millions of people in 3rd world countries. Heck, they could even market it as camping gear.

  • Sonia

    I do not believe that this product actually exists. I do not know anyone who has been able to purchase this product. I have never even heard of a customer that has bought the product.

    It sounds like a great product but it has either disappeared or never existed in the first place. I have been trying to buy it for over a year.

  • Mac Kooy

    Dehumidifiers make living comfy by removing moisture through the air and obtaining rid of mold, mildew and musty smells. So, if you might be preparing to acquire a single for the house, make confident you retain the subsequent things in thoughts: This drinking water or moisture elimination capability of the dehumidifier is defined in pints, as an example 50 pint dehumidifier can eliminate 50 pints of drinking water from your air inside a day. The proper capability for you personally would depend about the environment you reside in; the much more humid the conditions the higher ought to be the dehumidifier’s drinking water elimination capability. Examine when the dehumidifier includes a hose to drain out the drinking water immediately, unless you would like the headache of draining out the drinking water manually. Nevertheless, if you happen to be on the strict spending budget you may well contemplate purchasing a dehumidifier having a handbook drainage method. Should you plan to retain the dehumidifier within your bedroom, make positive the sound experience degree is acceptable for you. The music degree may perhaps or may possibly not be specified through the producer, just in case it isn’t, you’ll be able to request the shop to switch about the device to ensure that you possibly can check it. In the event you reside in the cold environment, make positive the dehumidifier is capable of functioning at small temperatures. You should also examine to the vitality effectiveness from the dehumidifier. An auto-shut off function will assist in enhancing the effectiveness of one’s dehumidifier, by instantly switching itself off as soon as the pre-set humidity amounts are attained. Eventually, make positive how the device you acquire provides no less than a year’s warranty; there may be no stage investing on the dehumidifier which you realize might wind up shelling out far more time inside the attic than wherever it can be required.

  • Bev Barrows

    Sonia, google “atmospheric water generator” and you will find plenty of places to purchase one. I have owned one for 3 years. Couldnt be more pleased.

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