New Gel Creates Water From Desert Air

A simple gel can harvest water from the air.

A lush oasis in a parched, sandy desert.


A simple gel collects water out of thin air! This innovation works well in dry climates, promising drinking water to those living with water scarcity.

The gel was invented by a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Texas, according to a news release from The University of Texas Austin. Combining two simple ingredients, cellulose and konjac gum, the gel is inexpensive to produce.

Just one kilogram of gel can absorb up to six liters of water in a dry climate. For those living in a climate with relative humidity, one kilogram of gel can collect up to 13 liters of water a day.

Solving water scarcity
As the gel is so inexpensive and easy to make, it may offer a way of providing drinking water to countries with water shortages.

“This new work is about practical solutions that people can use to get water in the hottest, driest places on Earth,” Professor Guihua Yu told UTNews. “This could allow millions of people without consistent access to drinking water to have simple, water generating devices at home that they can easily operate.”

The results of this exciting work were recently published in Nature. With two thirds of the world’s population living with water scarcity, an easy, inexpensive technique to harvest water is essential. 

Countries are currently using available bodies of water to create drinking water, according to the study. These include desalinating ocean water and using water purification technologies. Yet there is abundant moisture in the atmosphere that can be harnessed as a sustainable resource.

Researchers have captured fresh water from fog and from dew, but that only serves areas with high humidity. With one third of the population living in arid places with very low humidity, a workable solution is critical.

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High yields
Scientists have been able to extract water from desert air, but these methods have low yields and use lots of energy, according to UTNews. In fact, this gel is a vast improvement from previous water harvesting technologies, reported New Atlas. The maximum water harvested has been 5.87 liters in places with relative humidity.

This new gel doubles this amount, uses no energy and is simple to operate and it can be molded into a shape or size that best suits the user.

“This is not something you need an advanced degree to use,” the paper’s lead author, Youhong “Nancy” Guo, told UTNews. “It’s straightforward enough that anyone can make it at home if they have the materials.”

Scientists are planning on making a thicker gel that will increase the yield, making this technology a viable solution to drought. Easy-to-use and inexpensive, the hope is that this super gel will offer access to clean drinking water to dry places around the world.

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