Czech team developing pioneering device to create water from desert air

Illustrative photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay

Scientists from the Czech Technical University are currently working in the desert in the United Arab Emirates testing a unique device that creates water out of the air using solar energy. After the trial run is completed, a smaller version of the equipment will be presented at the Czech pavilion at the Expo in Dubai in autumn 2020.

Illustrative photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay
The device, called S.A.W.E.R. or Solar Air Water Earth Resource, was developed by experts from the Czech Technical University’s Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings together with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. It is composed of two systems, one for extracting water out of the desert air and the other for cultivating the desert into fertile land.

Tomáš Matuška, head of the expert team, describes the mechanism:

“The core of the unit is a rotational exchanger used for desiccation. The amount of air going through one flow is about three times higher than in the other flow.

“Humidity from the air is adsorbed in small drains on the surface of the desiccant. From there it is transferred into the smaller air stream, where molecules of water are released in the hot air, making it moist.

“We then condense the water using a considerably smaller amount of energy than if we tried to condense it directly from the desert air.”

While a conventional cooler produces an average of 10 litres a day from the desert air, the S.A.W.E.R. system is capable of producing up to 200 litres a day.

Before being transported to the country, the equipment was first tested in a special chamber simulating atmospheric conditions in the United Arab Emirates.

Now, experts from Czech Technical University have just launched trial operation in the Sweihan desert. Vladimír Zmrhal is one of the members of the team:

Dubai,  photo: Joi Ito,  CC BY 2.0 Generic
“The water is running from this white 500-liter plastic container through a mineralization unit directly into a tap. It is regular drinking water.”

Even after sunset, the outside temperature in the deserts reaches over 40 degrees Celsius. Tomáš Matuška admits that working in such extreme conditions is not easy:

“We didn’t really want to come here. We couldn’t even imagine existing in 45 degrees Celsius. From 10 a.m. you cannot stay outside, so we have to work at night. We usually start at around five or six in the evening and work until 2 a.m.”

While the first part of the S.A.W.E.R. system has already begun its trial run, experts from the Botanical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences are developing a desert cultivation system that uses part of the obtained water for a special photobioreactor that helps to retain nutrients in the water. That will enable successful growth of plants in the extreme conditions of the desert.

Scientists from the Czech Technical University will now collect data for possible modifications and improvements of the S.A.W.E.R. system, which will be presented at the Czech national pavilion at the Expo 2020 World Fair in Dubai in autumn next year.