Device that harvests water from thin air wins the James Dyson Award

Young Melbourne-based inventor Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award, making it the second year in a row where the prestigious prize has gone to an Aussie. Linacre stole this year’s competition with his Airdrop irrigation concept that collects water from thin air.

airdrop-0The Swinburne University of Technology design graduate was driven to transform an ancient cooling technique into a new sub-surface irrigation system, following the enduring Australian drought that saw high levels of farmer suicide along Australia’s Murray- Darling Basin. Read more

Audi just created diesel fuel from air and water

Audi is making a new fuel for internal combustion engines that has the potential to make a big dent when it comes to climate change – that’s because the synthetic diesel is made from just water and carbon dioxide.

audi-e-dieselThe company’s pilot plant, which is operated by German startup Sunfire in Dresden, produced its first batches of the “e-diesel” this month. German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka put a few liters of the fuel in her work car, an Audi A8, to commemorate the accomplishment.

The base fuel is referred to as “blue crude,” and begins by taking electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar or hydropower and using it to produce hydrogen from water via reversible electrolysis. The hydrogen is then mixed with CO2 that has been converted into CO in two chemical processes and the resulting reactions produce a liquid made from long-chain hydrocarbons – this is blue crude, which is then refined to create the end product, the synthetic e-diesel. Read more

Desolenator churns out clean drinking water using solar power

Desalination may one day prove the savior for regions of the world where clean drinking water is scarce, but current technology dictates that this process is often expensive and energy-intensive. The team behind the Desolenator has high hopes of delivering water security to those in need, with a mobile desalinator that runs purely on energy from the sun.


The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight

At a time when the planet’s population is set to grow substantially and rising global temperatures are adding further uncertainty to the supply of fresh water, considerable effort is going into advancing desalination technology and making it cheaper and more accessible.

In 2010, IBM commenced work on a solar-powered desalination plant to bring fresh water to the Saudi desert, while later in that same year MIT revealed designs for a portable system powered by photovoltaic panels. Only yesterday we wrote about the Odyssée desalinator, an all-in-one system that uses wave-power to produce clean drinking water on the spot. Read more

Warka Water promises to harness safe drinking water from the air

As water shortage is a serious issue in many parts of the world, a means of efficiently harnessing safe drinking water from thin air without the need of expensive infrastructure could be a real lifesaver. Italy’s Architecture and Vision is developing an off-grid bamboo tower called Warka Water that promises just that: the firm says it could collect an annual average of up to 100 liters (26.4 US gallons) of water per day.


Once completed, Warka Water will rise to a height of 10 m (33 ft), weigh 60 kg (132 lb), and be secured to the ground with eight guide ropes. The tower consists of a lightweight woven bamboo structure, while an inner plastic mesh retains water droplets from passing fog, which fall into a collector and a large tank. Any rainwater and overnight dew also collects in the tank. Read more

Woody shrubs don’t slurp up water

Clearing encroaching plants from savannah might make drought worse.


Trees and shrubs may help to keep water flowing in arid areas. The degraded area on the left of this picture could struggle to hold water in the same way. Charles Taylor

Most Texans know that ranchers don’t like shrubs. That’s because of an assumption that when woody plants move into an area, they greedily horde water and drain nearby rivers. That assumption is the driving force behind efforts from Texas to South Africa to clear shrubs from drought-prone land.

However, there is one problem — according to a study by researchers at Texas A&M University in College Station, that assumption may not be true. Hydrologist Bradford Wilcox and his colleague Yun Huang examined water levels going back to 1925 for four of Texas’s biggest rivers near the parched Edwards Plateau in the west of the state. What they found shocked them.

“Rivers on the Edwards Plateau not only are not disappearing, but they are increasing in flow,” says Wilcox, who is first author on the study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters1. “By a lot. I mean, it’s doubled. That’s really big.” Read more