The Australian Scientists Turning Air Into Drinking Water, With Renewable Energy

Image: Supplied

Manufacturing 2,000 litres of drinkable water, extracted from the air (using renewable energy), at a cost of less than two cents per litre.

That's the challenge set to those entering the Water Abundance XPRIZE, where 98 teams from 25 countries will compete for the $1.75 million. Four Australian teams will take on the challenge, and we spoke to Hydro Harvest Operation (H20) about how they plan to win.

The winning device must be able to create decentralised access to water, giving people the power to access fresh water whenever and wherever they need it.

Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, is head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Newcastle, Director of the Priority Research Centre for Energy Technologies and Utilisation and the Director of VTara Clean Energy Technology Centre at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources. Professor Moghtaderi is also leading team "Hydro Harvest Operation (H20)" in the competition.

"We've been working in areas related to energy, energy efficiency and water for some time and some of the technologies we've been working on have actually become commercialised and are now on the market," Professor Professor Moghtaderi says.

The first one, GRANEX heat engine, is an engine for waste heat recovery, the second, Infratech Energyon demand, is an advanced thermochemical energy storage system, and the third, VAMCO, is a chemical oxidiser for abatement of ventilation air methane.

"In a moment of serendipity, we came across the Water Abundance XPRIZE and thought, well we've been working in this area, so why not give it a shot!", Professor Moghtaderi says.

The team was established about 10 months ago, and Professor Moghtaderi says the requirements of the competition are "very tough".

"We've been trying to minimise costs by working on a concept with an energy footprint that is as small as possible," Professor Moghtaderi says. "We're using a combination of renewable materials and renewable energy sources to do that."

Professor Moghtaderi says this competition is important, because air and moisture are resources accessible anywhere.

"We believe there should be as much emphasis placed on water security as is placed on energy security," Professor Moghtaderi says. "Some people suggest that future wars will be fought over water resources rather than energy resources."

The Water Abundance XPRIZE was launched in India in October 2016 at a United Nations day reception in New Delhi. The two-year competition will look to announce up to five finalist teams in February 2018 and will then embark on final testing through July 2018. The winner for the prize will be announced in August 2018.

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    Unfortunately for them - the team led by Luke Skywalker is going to be a shoe-in for this prize. He was raised as a moisture farmer, and has extensive experience in using autonomous droids to help automate the process. He is only required during harvest time really.

    Jokes aside - best of luck to them, and hopefully some cool tech comes out of it.

      the 'cool tech' has already come from this, over 100 years back when the stirling engine / heat engine / cryocooler was first dreamed up and built. Between it and ammonia absorption refrigeration systems we could have saved immeasurable amounts of power and water across the decades but the tech was always bypassed or ignored by consumers in favor of 'new' technology. These are old and everyone knows 'old is boring'.

      90+ year old Icy-ball fridges are still working and in use. 80 year old heat powered ammonia fridges, 60 year old room chillers - all still around and doing their thing and these are all things I've argued for years would be a vastly superior way to save energy but you know what? There's no interest.. not by government pushed by their lobbyists, not by the public.

      Solar powered ammonia absorption air conditioners powered by the heat of the sun are so low tech, have no moving parts to replace, extract water as ice from the air cost nothing to run and self regulate to work more the hotter the day is, there's entire remote fishing villages in Mexico that get ice for their fish and pumped cooled air to the houses all powered by the suns heat - but we don't get that. We don't because all the money for energy research or investment goes to wind or photovoltaics.

      I have hoped and struggled for years writing to politicians asking for some exploration into these but always there are lobbyists from the more powerful industries supplying solar panels, wind gen's and desal plants who suck up the dollars. Maybe this will raise the profile of these old technologies, maybe not. The movie Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford tried..

        Hi Karlos!

        Check this out we have just combined traditional absorption refrigeration with a rankine thermodynamic cycle to get a new regenerative thermodynamic cycle (we coined it REHOS) and boom! greater than 80% efficiency just using ambient heat in the air / water around us.

        Check this out you will find this interesting But yes trying to get funding is where we are at now.

        The bottom line is yes we can now do green much cheaper than even fossils, and capitalism will soon see the world go completely REHOS :-)

    Lets hope the savings are passed on in the form of a litre of bottled water less than the price of unleaded...

    Last edited 07/06/17 12:50 pm

      come on, realistic expectations here.. water out of thin air, gotta have health benefits..$$

    I don't understand this? Presumably you would use it in places with no water, but mankind is going to HAVE to migrate from these places because without water you cannot grow crops or other essentials. Using brute engineering force to stay in these locations is surely not sustainable long-term, especialy since the technology must make the air downstream even drier and accelerate problems down plume. Isn't it more efficient to use the renewable energy to pump water from places of abundance to places of shortage.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now