Tackling water shortages with the ‘Star Wars’ tech | EUROtoday

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Susie Bearne,Technology Reporter

Uravu Founders of Uravu pictured left to right Govinda Balaji, Swapnil Shrivastav, Venkatesh RUravu

The founders of Uravu (left to proper) Govinda Balaji, Swapnil Shrivastav, Venkatesh Raja

When a extreme drought hit the Indian metropolis of Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in 2016, residents together with pupil Swapnil Shrivastav had entry to a restricted quantity of water every day.

“We were rationed to two buckets of water a day, which we collected from water tanks,” he says.

While he says it’s not unusual for water provide points to impression elements of India, it was a troublesome month for Mr Shrivastav and others within the area. “It was a very humid area; it was unmanageable.”

Mr Shrivastav was already all for water shortage having received a pupil competitors in 2012 on imagining the way forward for water in cities, however the expertise pushed him to discover options.

“One element of inspiration was from Star Wars where there’s an air to water device. I thought why don’t we give it a try? It was more of a curiosity project.”

Several years later, in 2019, that concept led him, Govinda Balaji and Venkatesh Raja to arrange Uravu Labs, a Bangalore-based startup.

Their system converts air to water utilizing atmospheric water mills that include a liquid desiccant, which absorbs moisture from the air.

Using daylight or renewable electrical energy they warmth the desiccant to 65C which releases the moisture, which might then be condensed into consuming water.

Mr Shrivastav says the entire course of takes about 12 hours. Today every unit produces about 2,000 litres of consuming water.

However, whereas his imaginative and prescient was to produce consuming water to communities dealing with water shortages, he says it wasn’t financially viable.

“We realised the tech still needs more time to scale up and come down in cost,” says Mr Shrivastav. “Or someone should fund it, but we haven’t found the support in India.”

Instead, they at the moment promote the water to 40 shoppers within the hospitality business, who in flip use it to offer consuming water for purchasers.

“We tried non-profit and CSR departments [corporate social responsibility]… but many companies shy away from tech. They thought it wouldn’t work. We had to shift to commercial consumption applications as they were ready to pay us and it’s a sustainability driver for them.”

Getty Images A man fills water for transport into a tanker on April 03, 2017 in Kebri Dahar, Ethiopia.Getty Images

Producing water domestically can keep away from the trouble of transportation

Water shortages aren’t new, however many international locations, particularly within the world south, are experiencing local weather change-related intense drought and flooding that contaminates water sources.

More than 50% of the worldwide inhabitants – 4 billion individuals – expertise water shortfalls at the very least as soon as a month, whereas by 2025, 1.8 billion persons are anticipated to be residing in international locations or areas with “absolute” water shortage, in response to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Could atmospheric water technology know-how be the reply? Energy environment friendly – it may be powered by renewable sources – it’s a method of offering a contemporary supply of water with out the necessity for conventional water infrastructure, making it a pretty possibility in distant places.

There seems to be a marketplace for the know-how. Valued at $3.4bn (£2.7bn) in 2022, the atmospheric water technology market is predicted to be price $13.5bn in 2032, in response to a report by Global Market Insights.

There are two primary strategies for atmospheric water technology. Firstly, there’s the cooling and condensation course of which cools humid air to its dew level, inflicting water vapour to condense into liquid water.

The second is a desiccant-based system which makes use of hygroscopic supplies to soak up moisture from the air, then launch it via a heating course of, he says.

Majik Water Majik Water, co-founder and chief executive Beth KoigiMajik Water

Beth Koigi manages 40 water mills throughout the dry areas of Kenya

Through her social enterprise Majik Water, co-founder and chief govt Beth Koigi manages about 40 atmospheric water generator models throughout arid and semi-arid areas throughout Kenya, utilizing a cooling and condensation-based strategies to seize moisture from the air.

Founded in 2017, Ms Koigi was impressed to start out Majik Water after experiencing water shortage for the primary time throughout a drought when she was finding out in Nairobi in 2016.

While many visited a close-by river to fetch water for cooking, consuming and washing, Koigi says she couldn’t carry herself to drink the contaminated water.

“It made me realise that you take for granted water as it’s always there.”

She began in search of different water supply concepts and arrange a water filter firm earlier than creating an air-to-water system.

Majik Water works with NGOs and humanitarian organisations, in addition to being offered in shops.

Majik’s greatest unit produces 500 litres of water in 24 hours and is put in in colleges and small communities.

While there may be demand for her firm’s system, Ms Koigi doesn’t see it as a everlasting answer.

“Honestly, I feel like this is not the solution to water scarcity,” says Ms Koigi. “It’s a temporary solution… mostly because it’s not cheap.”

Manufacturers are focused on making air-to-water generation systems more energy efficient, says Avinash Singh, associate director of research and consulting at Global Market Insights.

“For instance, innovations in compressors, heat exchangers, and desiccants have improved the energy efficiency of such systems.”

He adds that government support, subsidies, or environmental regulations could drive further adoption of the technology.

More Technology of Business

One development which has helped the adoption of such water systems is the move to digital payments.

Headquartered in Italy, Veragon has water production units across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America.

“When we originally started with off-grid communities, it was a cash-based society which wasn’t really viable… nowadays it’s being digitalised,” says Veragon world enterprise director Stephen White.

“For example, the majority of Cambodia is covered by 4G and Covid saw an explosion of e-wallets. There’s much better private infrastructure and partnership – the government doesn’t have to be involved, and we sell water at much lower price.”

He says all models will probably be moved to digital within the subsequent few months.

However, the costs of the models isn’t low cost. Veragon says its models, which use the cooling and condensing system, price between $60,000 and $70,000.

Meanwhile, Ms Koigi says a big unit of theirs prices $18,000.

But Mr Shrivastav factors that making water in situ has a value benefit as water is sort of heavy and never simple to move round.

Looking forward, Uravu Labs is exploring how developments in materials science can enhance the effectivity of desiccants, or how utilising a unique materials for absorbing extra moisture from the air might make the method simpler. Mr Shrivastav says these developments will even lead to decreasing the warmth required from 60C to 40C.

They are additionally hoping to run pilot initiatives involving putting in its models in information centres in India and Singapore.

Data centres generate a whole lot of warmth which is often misplaced, however Uravu plans to as an alternative to make use of it create contemporary water.

“This process will result in up to 95% reduction in fresh water consumption [by the datacentre] as Uravu’s system captures most of the waste heat and gives back cold water, thus very little freshwater is needed as a top-up,” says Mr Shrivastav.