Clean drinking water has always been a problem for the modern world but it seems that we’re running out of it faster than we expected. In some places in the world, people go without clean water for weeks. Due to this many researchers and scientists are investing their time and resources to figure out a way to procure more water and help the world keep up with the increasing need for drinkable water.
Research is being conducted on the matter all over the world, but two materials stand above the others in a way that they show the most promise. These materials are the hydrogel and the metal-organic framework or MOF. DARPA has already started to fund both projects separately.
Hydrogel hails from UT Austin, Texas and researchers, Fei Zhao and Zhou, believe it could play a vital role to mitigate the water crisis that is surely coming. They are being led by Guihua Yu. Hydrogel is capable of absorbing moisture from the humid night air and after heating, it can release the water it has absorbed back into the atmosphere. The material shows promise but it is heavily area dependent, like areas where the night is cold and causes air to condense.
Scientists also have developed techniques to capture water from fogs or collecting dews from foliage but again all these depend on environmental factors. According to a study in 2016, four billion people globally are already struggling to pull through at least one month a year without water.
The other material, the metal-organic frameworks or MOFs also saw a critical breakthrough when it was revealed that the metal could capture moisture in the atmosphere. The MOF consists of porous solids composed of metal ions that are linked together using organic molecules. These molecules are able to capture the moisture in the air. MOFs are being researched at the University of California, Berkeley, by Omar Yaghi.
Both groups are being funded by DARPA whose goal is to develop portable and low-energy devices capable of producing drinking water from the atmosphere within a range of climate conditions to hydrate military personnel.
DARPA is funding two separate projects that ultimately have the same goal but competition breeds innovation so it’s good that they’re taking the water crisis seriously.