wouldn't you love it if . . .


you could get water out of thin air?

Now, someone has. In future, you will too.

An Australian designer from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne is the winner of the 2011 James Dyson Award for his “Airdrop” – a low-cost, low-maintenance technology for farming in arid areas.  (You may remember that, James Dyson revolutionized the vacuum cleaner with his stronger vacuum pump.) Both Linacre and Swinburne University of Technology received checks for  £10,000. Dyson, said Edward Linacre’s invention “shows how simple, natural principles such as the condensation of water can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.”

Asked what inspired him to create water from air, Linacre said,

The effects of climate change on Australia are accelerating at an alarming rate. . .  the worst drought in a century, lasting 12 years and resulting in irreversible damage to ecosystems, widespread wildlife decline and catastrophic bushfire conditions. Agriculture suffered record losses. An alarming figure of 1 rancher/farmer a week was taking their own life, as years of drought resulted in failed crops, mounting debt and decaying towns. . . The southwest corner of the country has experienced its driest year to date. Scientific projections indicate as temperatures continue to increase so too will the severity, frequency and duration of droughts worldwide.

 

While there are various atmospheric water harvesting technologies that exist today, most are high-tech and expensive  – out of reach for most small farmers. And so, Linacre’s invention, which “is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution; the pipe construction was born through investigations into the principles of air-flow. . . other elements include the turbine – designed to maximize air intake, to operate freely in high wind and switch to battery power in low wind.” So, farmers can use the Airdrop under almost any conditions, and without spending money for the energy to run it. The solar pump uses natural, free energy – the same energy used to grow the crops.

Linacre explained how it works on the Dyson Awards Winner Page,

Moisture is harvested out of the air to irrigate crops by an efficient system that produces large amounts of condensation. A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water. The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped through to the roots of crops via sub surface drip irrigation hosing. The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and system health.

 

For those like me who are low-tech ourselves, that means taking air and cooling it in pipe networks until the water comes out of it.Farmers can install and maintain the unit themselves. Linacre’s prototype, installed in his “mum’s backyard,” made about 1 liter of water each day. This proves that the concept works, and the award will hopefully allow creation of a commercial model for farm use, since that was Linacre’s goal. Could this finally be a way for farmers to have water for their crops without any boundary or waterway issues and without drought concerns?

All across Australia farmers are waiting with baited breath. And I am waiting, hoping for it to be available in drought stricken areas all over the world. Meanwhile, I say to Edward Linacre of Australia,

Rock on!

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