Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Farming the Desert: Pulling Water from the Air via Airdrop


Australian Ed Linacre has devised a way of farming the drylands down under. He calls his device the "Airdrop," and it has won him a James Dyson Award. He has installed the first device in his mother's backyard.
Airdrop consists of a mast-like tube with a wind-powered turbine that sucks air down into a coiled metal pipe. The air descends under the earth and cools until it hits 100% humidity and the water starts to drip out. Linacre installed one in his mother’s back yard in Australia and it pulled out a liter of water in a day.

The units also have storage tanks, from where they pump out the water into underground irrigation systems.

The units are small, can be self installed and are easy to repair while still in the ground. Linacre sees farmers installing fleets of them in fields, where they could sit and water the plants with no human help. The pumps are even solar-powered, a great idea in deserts. _Wired
With efficient mass production, such units should prove relatively inexpensive. The concept is simple, but it isn't yet clear where the best niches for the device might be.

The more humidity in the air, the more moisture that can be condensed out. But the greatest need for such devices would seem to be in dry, low humidity areas, without economical irrigation. There are large areas of arid land globally which are relatively close to large bodies of water. Such places tend to experience regular moist sea breezes or fogs, suggesting that Linacre's device might work efficiently there.

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