water being poured into a glass

An 82-year-old engineer made a machine that can turn air into drinking water

People all over the world face water scarcity, especially in regions where it’s difficult to access it. Plus, as climate change causes droughts in Europe and other areas, water is a pressing need. While there’s no one-and-done solution, some innovators are coming up with ways to combat water scarcity. For instance, there is 82-year-old engineer Enrique Veiga. He has developed that machine that creates drinking water out of air. This invention matched with humanitarian aid could become a necessity for dry regions.

The objective is to reach places like refugee camps where they do not have water to drink,” said Veiga.

The Machine That Turns Air Into Water

By definition, water scarcity is the lack of available water resources to meet the needs of a region. It could involve water stress, water crisis, and water shortages or deficits. This issue affects about 2.8 billion people around the globe at least one month every year. Plus, over 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. 

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Water stress is when obtaining freshwater is difficult and deteriorates available water resources. Water scarcity could be caused by climate change —which involves floods or droughts — pollution, the overuse of water, and the increased demand for water. [1]

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Veiga had originally built the water extractor machine in the 1990s to aid with droughts in Southern Spain. However, the machine could only turn air into water with humidity levels below 8%. Temperatures of 40ºC (104.0 °F) were unworkable. Since then, Veiga’s company, Aquar, has been commissioned to produce these devices, which are already in use in a refugee camp in Lebanon and in some areas in Namibia. “In the villages we visited in Namibia, people were amazed, they didn’t understand it, they asked where the water came from,” said Veiga.

This machine can produce between 50 and 75 liters of water per day. Plus, it’s small enough to get transported on carts. However, there are larger versions of this device, and those can produce up to 5,000 liters in one day. [2]

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82-year-old engineer Enrique Veiga standing by his invention, a machine that turns air into water
82-year-old engineer Enrique Veiga standing by his invention. Image Credit: Reuters

Read: The ‘8th Continent’ Is a Floating Self-Sustainable Ocean Cleaner

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How the Machine Works

While turning air into water may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, the science behind it is simple. The device cools air until it creates condensation, which turns it into water collected by the machine. It’s the same kind of system that causes condensation in air conditioning units. And unlike the original version, this machine can work in temperatures up to 104ºF and up to 10% and 15% humidity levels. 

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Our idea is not only to make a device that is effective but one that’s useful for people who have to walk for kilometers to fetch water or dig wells,” said Veiga. He has founded a non-profit organization called Water Inception so he could take his invention to refugee camps and other areas of the world.

In fact, Vietnamese refugee Nhat Vuong teamed up with Veiga after meeting him in a refugee camp in Lebanon in 2017. Now, Water Inception has provided a 500-liter a day machine to that camp. 

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It’s working beautifully, I’m really happy,” said Nhat. He is now fundraising for solar panels to lower energy costs and make the project more environmentally friendly. [3]

Read: Student accidentally creates rechargeable battery that could last decades

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Water is a basic human right”

Fortunately, there are other innovators battling this issue like Veiga. There is also Michael Mirilashvili, head of Watergen, a firm that also technology that turns air into water to help regions facing conflict and crisis. “Water is a basic human right, and yet millions don’t have access to it,” he said.

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One of the greatest perks of this technology is how transportable it is. “A big advantage of using atmospheric water is that there’s no need to build water transportation, so no worries about heavy metals in pipes for example or cleaning contaminated water from the ground or polluting the planet with plastic bottles,” said Mirilashvili.

Watergen’s largest machine can produce 6,000 liters of water per day. It has provided water to villages in Africa and hospitals in the Gaza Strip. It has also helped Australia fight the bush fires in 2020. “This is not just about saving lives, it’s about improving the lives of millions,” said Mirilashvili. “Even in developed countries some people don’t drink clean water and it has a direct effect on health and agriculture.” [4]

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Keep Reading: Woman Finds Way To Recycle Plastic Into Bricks That Are Stronger Than Concrete

Sources:

  1. Water Scarcity.” Science Daily
  2. “An 82-year-old engineer made a machine that can turn air into drinking water.Insider. Enrique Fernández and Qayyah Moynihan. August 12, 2021
  3. “Spanish engineers extract drinking water from thin air.” Reuters. Mariano Valladolid and Jon Nazca. August 4, 2021
  4. “Finding answers to the world’s drinking water crisis.BBC. Natalie Lisbona. August 2, 2021
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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