Masdar in pact with US company to turn desert air into water in Abu Dhabi

Aquovum signs three-party R&D agreement with the clean energy company and the Khalifa University of Science and Technology

A US-based technology company is sourcing water from the desert by extracting moisture from air using clean energy at Abu Dhabi's Masdar City as part of the UAE's efforts to produce clean water in a more sustainable way.

Aquovum will produce commercial volumes of uninterrupted water supply using solar and thermal energy in a pilot project run by the company, in partnership with Masdar and the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, the companies said on Sunday.

The project is part of a three-party research and development agreement between the entities.

Developing technology that both protects and guarantees a constant and secure source of water is "of utmost importance", said Abdulla Balalaa, executive director of sustainable real estate at Masdar City.

“The project will positively contribute to regional and global water security in line with the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036," he said.

The project could offer a model for other countries with arid climates to produce clean water in a more sustainable way and even spur agricultural breakthroughs to improve food security.

The UAE, which along with other Gulf economies relies heavily on desalination for potable water, is registering an uptake in atmospheric water generation, or AWG, to supplement clean drinking water in homes and institutions.

AWG produces drinking water directly from air by condensing the water molecules below dew point.

The project, which begins this month, will evaluate the performance of Aquovum's large-format AWG technology in combination with a renewable energy source, as well as its ability to be included in current or future sustainable water projects.

“To support ... the global green transition and to ensure water security, we recognised that we must power our systems on 100 per cent renewable energy to provide a truly sustainable water supply," said Robert Wood, chief technology officer of Aquovum.

"Our bleeding-edge technologies work with nature and are the way forward to deliver lasting, sustainable solutions.”

The AWG technology will also contribute to a market that is expected to grow by a compound annual rate of more than 25 per cent globally and by more than 30 per cent in the Middle East and Africa alone, a region with some of the world’s harshest climates, where water is needed the most, according to Global Market Insights.

“Previously, we have focused on concentrated solar power and thermal energy storage, and we are diversifying our research and development activity at the Masdar Institute Solar Platform with clean production of fresh water," said Nicolas Calvet, assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Khalifa University, founder and chairman of the Masdar Institute Solar Platform and principal investigator of the project.

"Solar and water should be the main pillars of research and development in the UAE," he said.

The project, which will run for 12 months, will provide valuable performance data for a full-year’s weather cycle, he said. The green power will be provided by a thermal energy storage unit of Azelio AB.

"Technology that extracts clean water from the air in commercial volumes and operates using clean energy will help in securing and developing all life sources and serving the national interests," said Mohamed Al Qubaisi, chief executive of Aquovum Middle East.

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Updated: August 2nd 2021, 3:08 AM
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