Innovation of the Week

This little box could save your life in the desert

Imagine an incredibly sophisticated sponge that pulls water molecules out of the cool night air

MIT and California-Berkeley researchers have built a water harvester.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and MIT have built a device that can harvest water from even the driest desert air, said Adele Peters at Fast Company. The small, solar-powered box contains a sponge-like material called a metal-organic framework. That material grabs and holds water molecules from the cool desert night air when the box is left open overnight.

"Essentially, it's tailored so that it's an exceptionally good sponge," said MIT's Evelyn Wang, coauthor of a paper about this invention. "It can capture a lot of water from the humid environment around it, and kind of soak it up in this material."

Closed during the day, the box uses the sun’s heat to release the water molecules as vapor, which is then condensed into clean drinking water.

Courtesy MIT

The latest version of the device can harvest a little more than half a gallon of water per day, though larger versions could potentially supply enough water "for showers, laundry, and other uses beyond drinking water." Researchers say the next step is to figure out how to mass-produce the box's sponge-like material.

Check out a video explaining this amazing new device:

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