Although there is enough drinking water in the air, many people do not have access to it. However, a new type of airgel could change that in the long term.
A phenomenon was observed in Germany this summer. Although the temperatures didn’t rise as much, the body still started to sweat faster than usual. This is due to the high humidity. The increasing concentration of water in our environment makes it more difficult for the body to cool down.
As a result, we start sweating at temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius. But the high humidity could one day save human lives. At least according to researchers from China. Drinking water is still a rare commodity in many places around the world. According to UNICEF, around 771 million people worldwide do not have a basic supply of drinkable water.
Large proportion of drinking water in our air
With their approach, the research team now wants to take advantage of the fact that there is around six times more water in the atmosphere than in all the rivers on this planet. They therefore developed an airgel that can extract small amounts of drinking water from the surrounding air every day.
The gel consists of two main components. While the core attracts and stores moisture, the shell is water-repellent. During the night, the ambient air penetrates the gel and the core absorbs the moisture. The water-repellent shell prevents moisture from escaping. The proportion of liquid in the core constantly increases.
One gram of drinking water in 24 hours
During the day, however, the shell does its work. This consists, among other things, of black carbon particles. The particles store the sunlight that hits them and gradually heat the gel. As a result, the stored water is released again as water vapor. The end product is water and thermal energy.
Although the process sounds promising, researchers are still in the early stages of developing such aerogels. Within 24 hours, each kilogram of material creates around one gram of fresh water. That’s not a lot, but it’s a lot compared to previous approaches. So it is likely that such a gel will one day save lives.