Open Innovation Solution Creates Water Out of Thin Air

Published Mar-14-19

An innovative machine that creates water out of the thin air at low cost and by using renewable resources.

XPRIZE Foundation, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation Solution Creates Water Out of Thin Air There is nothing more essential to life than clean water. Yet across the planet hundreds of millions of people are struggling to access the good-quality water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing and growing food. There is a global water crisis and according to humanitarian aid organization World Vision, 844 million people lack basic access to drinking water, more than 1 out of every 10 people on the planet.

Other figures make for equally depressing reading. Most natural disasters are water-related, and women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours carrying water every day. The World Health Organization claims that by 2025, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas.

To help address the urgent challenge of ensuring that everyone has access to clean water the XPRIZE Foundation launched the Water Abundance XPRIZE, in 2016.
“Water is our lifeblood. With alarming water shortages impacting livelihood around the world, we are in dire need of decentralized and democratized water breakthroughs now more than ever,” said Zenia Tata, vice president of Global Impact Strategy at XPRIZE.

The Challenge

Participants were asked to come up with a device that could extract a minimum of 2,000 liters of water per day from the atmosphere, using 100% renewable resources. And it had to do so at a combined operating and capital cost of no more than two cents per liter.

Initially, 98 teams from 27 countries registered for the two-year open innovation contest and five teams eventually made it to the final testing phase. During this stage of the competition, teams had to demonstrate the viability of their technologies. One team withdrew and a group of innovators called The Skysource/Skywater Alliance, based in Venice Beach, California that had been previously eliminated took their place, eventually winning.

Innovative Winning Solution

Their innovation is called WEDEW (wood-to-energy deployable emergency water), a self-contained sustainable energy-water generator that is powered using 100% renewable energy in the form of biomass gasification. The process superheats green feedstocks and converts them into electricity, hot humid air and biochar (charcoal produced from plant matter). It can produce 2,000 liters of potable water every 24 hours, at a cost of $0.02 per liter by combining cold and hot air to create condensation. This is similar to the way clouds are formed. It is a point-of-use system, so communities don’t have to rely on infrastructure for their water and power.

The WEDEW units can operate in any climate and are carbon negative which means they remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while producing extra energy that can be used by local communities.

Prize Money and Future Progress

For winning the Water Abundance XPIZE the team received a check for $1.5 million. Since picking up their prize in October 2018, the team has received a lot of interest in their innovation from governments, corporations, universities and investors.

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