This Startup Turns Sunlight Into Drinkable Water

It sounds like magic, but there's solid tech behind this brilliant invention.


(Love Silhouette /

Imagine you could pull drinkable water right out of the air. A new startup, Zero Mass Water is doing just that. It sounds like magic, but it wasn't as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

In fact, it took seven years and a lot of new technology for the startup’s founder Cody Friesen, a materials scientist and associate professor at Arizona State University to develop the Source Hydropanel.

Using solar power, one Source panel can create enough drinking water for two to three people according to Inc. Two panels can create 10 liters a day or the equivalent of 20 plastic water bottles. The set-up costs $4,500 which will pay for itself in under four years depending on the cost of bottled water.

The Source Hydropanel runs a fairly simple premise. The solar panel converts the sunlight into energy that heats a sponge-like material inside and creates condensation. The condensation is collected in a 30-liter reservoir. After adding minerals and ozone to improve the taste and purity of the water, it is then pumped directly to the water tap or to a refrigerated fill station. This process is powered by solar panels, so it is totally green technology.

Friesen grew up in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona saw the effects of water scarcity first hand. He decided to tackle the issue head-on and to create a system that would leapfrog infrastructure the same way that cell phones did.

Friesen set out to build a new system that fundamentally changed the way people get water.

He founded the startup in 2014 and the system went to market last year. "We're accelerating water delivery from what is basically the Roman era into the 21st century, " he told Inc. His mission is to make drinking water an unlimited resource.

Zero mass is partnering with organizations all around the world. There is an installation funded by the Samburu Girls Foundation - an NGO working in northern Kenya - to provide drinking water at a girl's school. Before the installation, the girls had to walk two miles to a river for water.

There are installations at the Perth police force in the Western Outback in Australia where drinking is scarce. Zero Mass has installed systems in areas of Ecuador, Jordan, Mexico, and the Philippines that lack the infrastructure for drinking water.

After hurricane Maria, the startup donated panels to Puerto Rico so that local residents could fill containers with potable water.

In the US, the company has installed its system in both commercial and residential buildings including schools, offices, and homes where people are looking for unpolluted, clean, secure drinking water.

After all, water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Zero Mass Water's new technology is helping to supply it one liter at a time.

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