Even in the driest of deserts, there’s a hidden water source: the air.
That's the insight of this year's Dyson Award winner. The annual prizes call on “design and engineering students from 18 countries to create innovative, practical, elegant solutions to some of humanity's greatest challenges,” according to The Huffington Post. This year the award went to Edward Linacre for his groundbreaking solution to agricultural catastrophes caused by drought. He won £10,000 for his invention—the Airdrop—and so did his school, Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology. The Airdrop pulls air into a network of tubes underground, where it is cooled to extract moisture and then funneled down to plants’ roots. See his “elevator pitch” for the project below:
Harvesting water from the air isn’t a new idea; National Geographic reported on the ancient technique of fog harvesting back in 2009. Linacre told the Daily Mail that his design is a unique solution for agricultural issues because “other systems of harvesting water from the atmosphere usually require massive amounts of energy, as they run refrigeration units. Airdrop simply uses the temperature difference between the air and the cool earth beneath the surface.” The Airdrop, he says, is a good solution for rural farmers because it’s low-tech: they can install and maintain it themselves.
Whether or not this design can practically translate to the developing world is still up in the air and probably depends largely upon its cost. Still, the simple idea of tapping into the water that’s present in the air in even the driest of environments could be very promising for increasingly parched areas of the globe.
Margo Conner is a senior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, majoring in international affairs. Read her other contributions to Global Envision.