Tuesday, March 28, 2023

This Gel Can Literally Pull Drinking Water Out of Thin Air

This Gel Can Literally Pull Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air
Photograph of film capturing water. Credits: University of Texas at Austin.

According to the WHO, nearly one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, and that number is likely to increase for only two reasons: population growth and climate change. This is why some scientists are working hard to develop new technologies to avoid the thirsty future.

The biggest challenge is balancing a growing population against a limited amount of available water. But researchers at the University of Texas at Austin thought outside the box, pushing the limits of where we can source water.

In a new study, they describe an inexpensive gel film that can capture water from the atmosphere, pulling up to two liters of drinking water per day, even in dry conditions.

The gel is composed of cellulose, a main substance found in plant cell walls that helps the plant stay hard and strong, and konjac gum, a natural, water-soluble dietary fiber, found in the roots of elephant yam. extracted from, which is often used. As a food additive. Both materials are cheap and readily available.

The two components work together to absorb water from the air. The porous structure of the gum attracts water molecules, trapping them within. Then, upon heating, the cellulose becomes water-repellent, releasing the captured water.

This Gel Can Literally Pull Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air
The film can be molded into various shapes. Credits: University of Texas at Austin.

During experiments using air with a relative humidity of 30%, one kilogram of gel was able to capture and release 13 liters of water over a 24-hour period. At 15% relative humidity, which is what you’d expect to see in a desert, the gel still managed to produce over 6 liters of water per kilogram.

“This new work is about practical solutions that people can use to get water from the hottest, driest places on Earth,” said Guihua Yu, a professor of materials science and mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. “This could allow millions of people without constant access to drinking water to have simple, water-generating devices at home that they can easily operate.”

This Gel Can Literally Pull Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air
Schematic of the prison fabrication process. Credits: University of Texas at Austin.

First, Yu and his colleagues created a solar-powered moisture harvester and a new type of self-watering soil that draws water from the air and distributes it to plants. The experience of working on these projects over the years helped him create this prison, which could help more than two billion people around the world who live in arid lands and experience significant water shortages .

And unlike other harvesting systems that draw water from the air, this simple gel film is inexpensive, requires no energy to operate, and can be easily manufactured by anyone.

“It’s not something you need an advanced degree to use,” said Yuhong “Nancy” Guo, the paper’s lead author and a former doctoral student in Yu’s lab, now a postdoctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. are researchers. “It’s so straightforward that anyone can make it at home if they have the ingredients.”

“The gel takes 2 minutes to set easily. Then, it just needs to be freeze-dried, and it can be peeled off the mold and used immediately thereafter,” said doctoral students from Yu’s team and work on Lead researcher Weixin Guan said.

The findings were reported in the journal nature communication,

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