With the world facing increased water shortages because of climate change, scientists are getting creative with new methods for harvesting water from the atmosphere. Specialized materials play a key role in these processes, and they could also have applications in cooling systems. A new article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, details the ways researchers are transforming how the world stays hydrated.
Over half of the world's population faces water scarcity at least one month per year, and a warming planet is only making matters worse, writes special correspondent XiaoZhi Lim. In recent years, scientists have explored using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which are porous solid materials that can capture and release water in arid conditions. Other researchers have found that hydrogels can hold more water than MOFs but perform better in more humid conditions. By creating a hybrid of these materials, the goal is to optimize water harvesting technologies for any environment.
Experts say that the applications for water harvesting materials are "almost endless," from self-irrigating soil to air conditioning. Researchers in Singapore have created a new hybrid material that dehumidifies moist air before it is cooled, possibly making air conditioners more energy efficient. The collected condensation from the dehumidifying process could then be used to supply a building with water. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invested heavily in these new technologies and is planning to conduct tests in an array of climate conditions. Experts say that any water-harvesting material will need to demonstrate long-term stability and efficiency, but they're hopeful that these innovations will help combat drought and desertification worldwide.
The article, "The world needs water. These materials take it from the air," is freely available here.
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