Monday, September 20, 2021

UAE reveals plans to make drinking water from thin air

UAE reveals plans to make drinking water from thin AIR: Solar-powered ‘hyper-dehumidifiers’ that can extract 6,700 litres a day will be installed next to Abu Dhabi’s main airport in October

  • Technology sucks in moisture-rich air with fans and cools it until vapour forms   
  • The new carbon-free technology will operate on 100 per cent renewable power
  • It could relive reliance on bottled water in one of the hottest climates on Earth 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is planning to install ‘water generators’ that turn moisture in the air into drinking water for public consumption. 

Powered by environmentally-friendly solar energy, the ‘hyper-dehumidifiers’ provide a plentiful and uninterrupted water supply from the humid UAE air. 

About 20 of the dehumidifiers can produce 6,700 litres of fresh water a day when local conditions are at 78°F (26°C) and 60 per cent humidity. 

The technology is being tested as part of a pilot this October, but if successful it will be rolled out in Masdar – a futuristic ‘sustainable city’ currently being built next to Abu Dhabi airport.

The ‘hyper-dehumidifiers’ (pictured) provide an uninterrupted water supply that’s safe for the public to drink. The water generators will be installed at Khalifa University’s Masdar Institute Solar Platform in Masdar City as part of a pilot this year

DEW POINT AND RELATIVE HUMIDITY  

The machines use a coolant to reduce the temperature of the moisture-packed air until it reaches ‘dew point’ 

The dew point is the temperature the air needs to be cooled to in order to achieve a relative humidity (RH) of 100 per cent.

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air compared to what the air can ‘hold’ at that temperature.

At 100 per cent relative humidity, the air can’t ‘hold’ all the moisture, resulting in dew, condensation or rain. 

At 0 per cent relative humidity, air is devoid of water vapour.   

Masdar is powered by an impressive 22-hectare (54-acre) field of 87,777 solar panels, as well as additional panels on the roofs of its buildings. 

It’s these solar panels that power the generators’ massive fans, which themselves suck moisture-packed air from the surrounding environment.

Pipes filled with this moisture-packed air are circulated with a liquid coolant, to cool the air down until it reaches what’s known as the ‘dew point’ – when water vapour condenses into liquid water. 

Once the liquid forms, it is collected and purified, allowing the public to fill their water bottles for free around dedicated stations. 

The project is being run by US-based water technologies firm Aquovum, in partnership with Masdar and Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi.

According to experts, the carbon-free technology will help relieve the UAE’s reliance on desalinating seawater and expensive imports of bottled water in what’s one of the hottest climates on Earth. 

Middle East and Africa alone are some of the world’s harshest climates where water is needed the most.  

‘Almost shockingly, being that the UAE is one of the water-stressed areas in the world, it has adequate temperature and humidity to provide an infinite supply of water through dehumidification,’ Robert Wood, Aquovum’s chief technological officer, told the Times.

‘At times there are periods of immense fog in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and through its coastal region and weather patterns the humidity ranges between 60-90 per cent.

‘Unclean water is a terrible problem and the worst part is that in theory it’s solvable, simply by capturing moisture in the air. This technology is going to be simple, sustainable and scalable.’   

If the pilot goes well, the water generators will be installed at Khalifa University’s Masdar Institute Solar Platform in Masdar City, which is still only partially finished.  

Emiratis walk in Masdar City, on the outskirts of the rich Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The buildings have been designed to provide shelter from the sun and are placed fairly close together to maximise a cool flow of wind

Masdar City is in close proximity to Abu Dhabi International Airport and only a 40-minute drive to Dubai

Masdar City started construction in February 2008 but its full completion has been hit by setbacks since the global financial crisis. 

Its set for completion at 2030 at the very earliest – at which point it will house around 40,000 people and another 10,000 commuters each day. 

The futuristic mecca is designed to be a hub for cleantech companies, complemented by apartments, schools, shops, cafes and sustainable travel. 

‘Masdar City is already home to over 900 companies, dedicated to developing innovative technologies across the sectors of renewables, energy storage, water, artificial intelligence, health, space, and mobility,’ Abdulla Balalaa, executive director for ‘sustainable real estate’ at Masdar City.

MASDAR: THE UAE’S FUTURSTIC ECO CITY 

Masdar City is the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) sustainable eco city, containing everything from building space for startups, apartments for families and a network of shops and eateries. 

Masdar, the company of the same name that is overseeing the project, calls it a ‘greenprint’ for the sustainable development of cities.

Masdar City is open to the public and welcomes tourists, residents, students, academics, entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors, the firm says. 

It combines ancient Arabic architectural techniques with modern technology to create a huge cluster of ‘high-performance buildings’. 

Pictured, a 10-megawatt solar farm on the outskirts of Masdar City. The solar panels provide energy for the city’s technologies 

The buildings have been designed to provide shelter from the sun and are placed fairly close together to maximise a cool flow of wind. 

Masdar rents out its building space to any interested business looking for office space. 

‘The cluster operates as a real-time laboratory that monitors, studies and improves upon ways cities use, conserve and share resources,’ the city’s brochure says. 

Getting into and around Masdar City is simple, due to a variety of low carbon public transportation options, including autonomous and electric shuttle cars, and electric public buses. 

Opened to its first residents in 2016, the Sustainable City is a private settlement built to use as little energy and water as possible

Masdar City, known as the ‘sustainable city’, started construction in February 2008 but its full completion has been hit by setbacks since the global financial crisis. 

Its set for completion at 2030 at the very earliest – at which point it will house around 40,000 people and even more commuters.  

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