Producing 2,000 litres of water at 140 paise per litre through renewable energy?

When T Pradeep, professor at IIT Madras, began to work on solving the world’s water scarcity problem, one of his first inspirations was the darkling beetles living in deserts. These tiny creatures have learned to live in the driest of environments, by developing a mechanism to draw water out of thin air. Humanity will have enough water if it learns to mimic the insects, and yet do it in a large scale with minimum energy consumption. It is a tall order, but Pradeep and his team set to work on the problem two years ago.

Pradeep is a chemist who develops and probes nanostructures, surfaces that show their properties at scales of a few billionths of a meter. He had made a surface on which water droplets would collect, and was working on developing a device when he heard about an XPrize challenge to draw water from the atmosphere. IIT Madras quickly assembled a 30-member team with Pradeep as the lead. They would have two years to develop a product that can draw 2,000 litres of water from the atmosphere in one day. The XPrize challenge was announced late last month, and its parameters went well beyond what anybody could do at the moment.

The winning team has to use only renewable energy, and has to produce 2,000 litres of water costing two cents (roughly 140 paise) per litre. There are a large number of water capture devices selling around the world, but none that could work at this efficiency and cost. “To make water at two cents a litre is audacious,” says Zenia Tata, executive director of global development at XPrize. Several companies around the world make and sell atmospheric water capture devices. In India, the first product was launched in 2004 by WaterMaker, a Mumbai-based company.

Source: Economic Times. Date: December 15 2016