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Atmospheric water generator

An atmospheric water generator (AWG), is a device

that extracts water from humid ambient air. Water vapor
in the air is condensed by cooling the air below its dew
point, exposing the air to desiccants, or pressurizing the
air. Unlike a dehumidier, an AWG is designed to render
the water potable. AWGs are useful where pure drinking
water is dicult or impossible to obtain, because there
is almost always a small amount of water in the air that
can be extracted. The two primary techniques in use are
cooling and desiccants.

desiccants such as lithium chloride or lithium bromide

to pull water from the air via hygroscopic processes.[2]
A proposed similar technique combines the use of solid
desiccants, such as silica gel and zeolite, with pressure

2.1 Cooling condensation


The extraction of atmospheric water may not be completely free of cost, because signicant input of energy
is required to drive some AWG processes. Certain traditional AWG methods are completely passive, relying on
natural temperature dierences, and requiring no external energy source. Research has also developed AWG
technologies to produce useful yields of water at a reduced (but non-zero) energy cost.


Warm Air

Air Filter

Moist Air In

Warm Air
Capillary Tube
Water Line





Refrigerant Flow


Example of cooling-condensation process.

In a cooling condensation type atmospheric water generator, a compressor circulates refrigerant through a condenser and then an evaporator coil which cools the air
surrounding it. This lowers the air temperature to its dew
point, causing water to condense. A controlled-speed fan
pushes ltered air over the coil. The resulting water is
then passed into a holding tank with purication and ltration system to help keep the water pure and reduce the
risk posed by viruses and bacteria which may be collected
from the ambient air on the evaporator coil by the condensing water.[3]

The Incas were able to sustain their culture above the rain
line by collecting dew and channeling it to cisterns for
later distribution. Historical records indicate the use of
water-collecting fog fences. These traditional methods
have usually been completely passive, requiring no external energy source other than naturally occurring temperature variations.

Modern technologies

The rate at which water can be produced depends on

relative humidity and ambient air temperature and size of
the compressor. Atmospheric water generators become
more eective as relative humidity and air temperature
increase. As a rule of thumb, cooling condensation atmospheric water generators do not work eciently when
the temperature falls below 18.3C (65F) or the relative
humidity drops below 30%. This means they are relatively inecient when located inside air-conditioned ofces. The cost-eectiveness of an AWG depends on the
capacity of the machine, local humidity and temperature
conditions and the cost to power the unit.

Many atmospheric water generators operate in a manner

very similar to that of a dehumidier: air is passed over a
cooled coil, causing water to condense. The rate of water
production depends on the ambient temperature, humidity, the volume of air passing over the coil, and the machines capacity to cool the coil. These systems reduce
air temperature, which in turn reduces the airs capacity
to carry water vapor. This is the most common technology in use, but when powered by coal-based electricity
it has one of the worst carbon footprints of any water
source (exceeding reverse osmosis seawater desalination
by three orders of magnitude) and it demands more than
four times as much water up the supply chain as it delivers
to the user.[1]

The Airdrop system consists of a mast-like tube with a

wind-powered turbine that sucks air down into a coiled
metal pipe buried in the earth. There, the air is cooled unAn alternative available technology uses liquid, or wet til it hits 100% humidity and the water starts to condense

out. This technology is basically a cooling condensation

system that takes advantage of the signicant temperature dierence between underground and the air above
it. The inventor, Ed Linacre, was James Dyson Award
Winner in 2011.[4] Video of Edward Linnacres AirDrop


Wet desiccation

One form of wet desiccant water generation involves the

use of salt in a concentrated brine solution to absorb the
ambient humidity. These systems then extract the water
from the solution and purify it for consumption. A version of this technology was developed as portable devices
which run on generators. Large versions, mounted on
trailers, are said to produce up to 1,200 US gallons (4,500
l) of water per day, at a ratio of up to 5 gallons of water
per gallon of fuel.[5] This technology was contracted for
use by the US Army and the US Navy from Terralab and
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).[6]
A variation of this technology has been developed to be
more environmentally friendly, primarily through the use
of passive solar energy and gravity. Brine is streamed
down the outside of towers, where it absorbs water from
the air. The brine then enters a chamber and subjected
to a partial vacuum and heated. The water vapor is collected and condensed, while the renewed brine is recirculated through the system. As the condensed water is
removed from the system using gravity, it creates the vacuum which lowers the boiling point of the brine.[7]

In greenhouses

A special case is the water-generation in greenhouses because the air inside a greenhouse is much hotter and more
humid than the outside. Particularly in climatic zones
with water scarcity, a greenhouse can strongly enhance
the conditions necessary for atmospheric water generation. Examples are the seawater greenhouse in Oman,
and the proposed Integrated Biotectural System or IBTSGreenhouse.

Commercial Uses

AWGs at this time can now be used as a sole source

of water for commercial and industrial applications,
as well as residential secondary buildings, within the

In ction

In the Dune series, Fremen on the desert world Arrakis

collected water from the atmosphere on a massive scale


by erecting wind traps that funneled dew-laden air into

cool underground caverns.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalkers family on Tatooine used
atmospheric water generation on their moisture farm.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner
Light", Captain Picard suggests building atmospheric
condensers for a planet experiencing prolonged drought.

6 See also
Air well (condenser)
Dew pond
Fog collection
Rainwater harvesting
Solar chimney
Solar still

7 References
[1] Environmental Assessment of Air to Water Machines. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18:11491157.
[2] Patents; Draw water from air, measure how much water
you drink and be kind to the sh you catch. New York
Times. July 2, 2001
[3] Latest Willie Nelson venture: Water from Air. Atlanta
Journal Constitution.
[4] Airdrop Pulls Water From Air to Irrigate Plants. Wired
(November 8, 2011)
[5] Water Extracted from the Air for Disaster Relief. National Public Radio; by Nell Greeneldboyce; October 19,
[6] Innovation Awards: Ahead of the Pack. Wall Street Journal. October 30, 2007.
[7] Drinking Water From Air Humidity. ScienceDaily (June
8, 2009)
[8] Historical Moment in the Monterey Peninsula. PRWeb
(August 23, 2014)

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