The answer for the global lack of clean water might be a sponge

One of the world’s most urgent problems today is to find a new way to produce clean water. As the years go by, the population gets bigger and our water sources become poorer.
A group of engineers from The University of Texas in Austin, led by Dr. Guihau Yu, might have a solution to this situation. The group created a solar-powered technology that absorbs moisture from the air and returns it as clean water.

The technology is based on hydrogels, gel-polymer hybrid materials that can act as “super sponges” and store large amount of liquid. The hydrogels used were both highly water absorbent and could also release them upon heating.

“We have developed a completely passive system where all you need to do is leave the hydrogel outside and it will collect water,” said Fei Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the study. “The collected water will remain stored in the hydrogel until you expose it to sunlight. After about five minutes under natural sunlight, the water releases.”

While the idea of using moisture isn’t new, it’s the first time this idea is being executed so efficiently. Most of the technology using such a concept today needs a lot of energy in order to work. The new technology requires only solar power, is compact and can produce up to 50 liters per kilogram of hydrogel, more than what a household needs to drink in a day.

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