A Spanish company said on Thursday it had devised a system to extract water from thin air — in sufficient quantities to supply arid regions where people are in desperate need.
“The goal is to help people,” said Enrique Veiga, the 82-year-old engineer who invented the machine during a harsh drought in southern Spain in the 1990s. “The goal is to get to places like refugee camps that don't have drinking water.”
Made by his company Aquaer, the devices are already delivering clean, safe water to communities in Namibia and a Lebanese refugee camp.
“In the villages we visited in Namibia they were astonished, they didn't understand, [they were] asking where the water came from,” he said.
Air-conditioning technology — outside
The machines use electricity to cool air until it condenses into water, harnessing the same effect that causes condensation in air-conditioning units.
While other water generators based on similar technology require high ambient humidity and low temperatures to function effectively, Mr Veiga's machines work in temperatures of up to 40°C and can handle humidity of between 10 and 15 per cent.
A small machine can produce 50-75 litres a day and can easily be carried on a trolley, but bigger versions can produce up to 5,000 litres a day.
“Our idea is not only to make a device that is effective, but also to make it useful for people who have to walk for miles to fetch water or make wells,” Mr Veiga said.
Switzerland-based Vietnamese refugee Nhat Vuong joined the cause after meeting Mr Veiga and visiting a refugee camp near Tripoli in Lebanon in 2017.
He founded a non-profit organisation, Water Inception, which brought a 500-litre a day machine to the camp.
“It's working beautifully, I'm really happy,” said Mr Nhat, who is now raising funds to install solar panels to bring down electricity costs and reduce the environmental impact of the project.