Like a sponge, the newly-created material absorbs water molecules, turns them into liquid and then releases the water.
The researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), whose work was published in the magazine Science Advances, made the sponge-like aerogel from snake-like polymers combined with a so-called metal organic framework.
The material can autonomously absorb water from the air and then repel it – no need even to squeeze the “sponge”.
On a sunny day, the aerogel improves its performance and is capable of transforming into water 95 % of the water vapour from the aerogel.
The group of researchers carried out the experiments with the material in a laboratory and achieved the results with 1440 hours of continuous operation – 60 days.
And the water it creates meets the drinking water standards of the World Health Organisation.
In conditions of sufficient humidity, one kg of gel can produce 17 litres of water per day. But given the lightness of the material, a considerable amount of room may be required to house the material.
At the same time, it amounts to a simple means of producing water requiring no sunlight or electricity and containing no moving parts or mechanisms.
“Given that atmospheric water is continuity replenished by the global hydrological cycle, our invention offers a promising solution for achieving sustainable fresh water production in a variety of climatic conditions at minimal energy cost,” the magazine quoted Professor Ho Ghim Wei from the NUS as saying.
Scientists the world over are working to resolve the problem of upholding the quality of drinking water. Academics estimate that 40% of the planet’s inhabitants suffer from shortages. And this new method of producing water could at least in part help reduce the extent of the problem.