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Atmospheric Water Harvesting System

The depletion of freshwater resources is increasing across the world and according to the World Wildlife Fund, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, while 2.7 billion are affected by water scarcity for at least one month of the year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Yet, the earth’s atmosphere contains billions of gallons of water vapor fluctuating in a natural hydrologic cycle powered by the sun, providing a large un-tapped potential. This interdisciplinary proposal aims to study a modular water harvesting system to harness atmospheric water via radiative cooling and advance material synthesis and design. The goal is to develop a concrete structure, coated with advanced functional polymers that absorb water vapor from the environment, condensing and storing it for further use. We envision designing a water collection prototype built in different sizes and implemented at different scales in a wide variety of locations based on local needs. The system can either be a stand-alone passive harvesting system based on night-time radiative cooling, or be actively cooled during daytime to increase the yield. The proposed technology is modular, widely employable, and significantly reduces power consumption and environmental impact related to reverse osmosis and distillation desalination or deep-aquifer exploitation. This project is possible through the synergy of the three PI’s backgrounds: Julio D’Arcy is an expert in organic chemistry and is responsible for the synthesis of the polymer coatings. Patricia Weisensee’s research is focused on condensation heat transfer and liquid transport through porous media. Moyano’s expertise lies in design and fabrication of sustainable/resilient building enclosures with focus in the performative aspects of concrete and its innovative applications at multiple scales.


Research team:


Julio M. D’Arcy, PhD in Chemistry, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry (School of Arts & Sciences)


Patricia Weisensee, PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science (McKelvey School of Engineering)


Pablo Moyano Fernandez, Master of Architecture & Master of Urban Design, Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture (Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts)

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