Zero Mass Solar Panels: Drinkable water directly from the air
Zero Mass Solar Panels: What if you could produce clean drinking water right from thin air and without using electricity? That’s what one Arizona based start-up is trying to do, using a combination of solar energy, material science, and data. Is this the next level of drinking water? This is Zero Mass water.
What is zero mass solar panels?
Zero Mass is actually the building and selling of solar-powered panels that harvest drinkable water called as Source. The panels have been up and running in specific locations over the past couple of years, but source just became more widely available. At the very highest level, we take sunlight and air to produce water. So as you drill into that, the air part of that equation is applying air into materials like water. The panels that harvest this water are installed on the roofs, taking up the water vapor out from the air, concentrate it and dispense it to the tap.
This pulling of water from the air is technically accurate, but really it’s a multi-step system. The Zero Mass panel looks like regular solar panels, but the middle strip is the only part that is standard photovoltaic technology. That part drives the fans and communicates inside the unit. On both sides of that strip, there is a proprietary porous material- one that generates heat that absorbs moisture from the air. The panel uses the sunlight to take the water back out from the thin air that produces a process that’s quite similar from dew forming in the grass. It’s basically when warm air hits a surface colder than itself. And then the water collects in a 30-liter reservoir where it is mineralised and pH balanced to get us clean drinkable water.
In an emergency situation like the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico, this setup can be installed probably in an hour, it actually turns out that takes up the longest in putting these in, is moving that line down to the sink or to the refrigerator. Every panel that is deployed is communicating with the server. Each panel has a circuit board that runs in an algorithm. So it can adjust itself to maximize water output. On average, each panel is supposed to produce five liters of water per day. It is safe to assume that if you are in a less humid climate or a drier climate that your water output could be less. The two things that affect the amount of water produced are the humidity in the atmosphere and the amount of solar energy that’s available. Still, researchers say that Zero Mass Solar Panels are absolutely able to make water in the desert. There’s no doubt that a lack of access to clean water is a big problem for a lot of people. According to the United Nations, water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population.
The biggest water problem that we have around the globe right now is the scarcity, quality, and the access. The number of people who die from waterborne diseases is enormous. It exceeds a million deaths per year. Dr. Ashok Gadgil is a kind of a legend when it comes to socially beneficial technologies, especially in the developing world. He has received numerous awards, including an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He developed a product that uses UV light to disinfect water, way back in the 90’s.
He also claims that changes in climate patterns, the explosion in urban populations and rising incomes are setting us up for a serious water crisis. This century, there is going to be an extraordinary crisis that groundwater which will be relied on as if it was there in indefinitely large quantities. It is not of course, there that way and we have to drill deeper and deeper. We are now extracting water that is around 10,000 years old, being pulled out of the ground to be used.
That’s the rate of replenishment which is minuscule as compared to the rate of withdrawal. So, is Zero Mass going to replace groundwater as a primary source? Is it going to help people with little or no access to clean water? Or is it just for people who buy a lot of bottled water? This surely will take up from a position of water scarcity to a position of water abundance for every person. And it’s a profound thing to say, but this technology entitles us to be inspirational, the fact that we can visit places where it is required the most. If there’s bottled water consumption more at some places, we can displace that as well. There is still cost to consider, each panel costs $2000 plus a $500 installation fee, so a total of $4500 for a two-panel array. So far, there are hundreds of Zero Mass panels have been installed in eight countries across the world.
Zero Mass’ water-harvesting technology has been in the works for the past six years. It was first developed at Arizona State University,
In emergency situations or places where are not many funds with people, the companies relies on donors, NGOs or multilateral institutions. The fact that there is not much infrastructure required, no wire, no pipe or anything, and it can be just put anywhere, changes our life.
Zero Mass solar panels are undoubtedly working hard on an innovative way so that people can get access to clean water without electricity or sophisticated plumbing. Not surprisingly, other companies are also creating these solutions because of the fact that the harvesting water from the air is the most sustainable, most cost-effective solution.