Zero Mass’ solar panels turn air into drinking water


What if you could produce clean drinking
water right out of thin air and without using electricity? That’s what one
Arizona based startup is trying to do using a combination of solar energy,
material science, and data. Is this the next level of drinking water? This is Zero Mass Water. It’s a water startup operating out of an old car dealership
in Scottsdale, Arizona. Zero Mass is building and selling solar-powered
panels that harvest drinking water called Source. The panels have been up
and running in specific locations over the past couple years, but Source just
became more widely available. At the very highest level, we take sunlight and air
and we produce water. As you drill into that, the air part of that equation
is applying air into materials that like water. So the same way when you
leave a lid off of a sugar bowl, the sugar gets a little clumpy. That’s
because that sugar really likes water in the air. I visited Zero Mass at
their headquarters to check out their panels. And, of course, to taste the water. And where is this water coming from? So the panels that produce this water are on the roof. So we’re taking a water vapor
out of the air, concentrating it in the panels and then we’re dispensing it to
the tap. It tastes nice and clean. It’s good isn’t it? Yeah, I had some tap water last night that didn’t taste quite like this. Okay. So to say they pull water from the air is technically accurate, but really
it’s a multi-step system. The Zero Mass panels look like regular solar panels, but the middle strip is the only part that is standard photovoltaic technology. That part drives the fans and the communications inside the unit. On either side of that strip is a proprietary, porous material – one that generates heat. A separate proprietary material inside the panel absorbs moisture from the air. Then the panel uses sunlight to take the water back out of those materials and produce a process that’s not dissimilar from dew forming on grass. Basically, when warm air hits a surface colder than itself. And then the water ends up in a
30-liter reservoir. Where it’s mineralized and pH balanced
and at that point it’s drinkable. Let’s say there’s an emergency
situation, like with the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico. How quickly can you get
one of these set up? So the three of us could install two of these in probably an hour. And so it actually turns out, the thing that takes the longest in
putting these in, is moving that line down to the sink or to the refrigerator. While I was able to see the Zero Mass panels and taste the water, I didn’t have much
visibility into how the water actually runs from the reservoir to a faucet. I was, however, able to see the company’s network operations center. We call it the NOC for short. Every panel that we’ve ever deployed is communicating with the server we have here. Robinson also said that each panel has a circuit board that runs an algorithm. So it can adjust itself to maximize water output.
On average, each panel is supposed to produce five liters of water per day. But it is safe to assume that if you’re in a less humid climate or a more dry climate that your water output could be less. Here is probably very different from here in the Philippines, right? Yep, the two things that affect the amount of water we produce are the humidity in the atmosphere and the amount of solar
energy that’s available. Still, he says that Zero Mass panels are absolutely able to make water in the desert, even in a place as dry as Arizona. There’s no doubt that a lack of access to clean water
is a big problem for a lot of people.
According to the United Nations, water scarcity affects more than 40
percent of the global population. What would you say is the biggest water problem we have around the globe right now? Is it scarcity, is it quality, is it access? I would say, it is really all
of the above. That would be the right answer. The number of people who die from
waterborne diseases is enormous. It exceeds a million deaths per year. Dr. Ashok Gadgil is a kind of legend when it comes to socially beneficial technologies, especially in the developing world. He’s won numerous
awards, including an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. And back in the 90s he developed a product that uses UV light to disinfect water. He says that changes in climate patterns, the explosion in urban populations and rising incomes are setting us up for a serious water crisis. This century, there is going to be an extraordinary crisis that the groundwater will be relied on as
if it was there in indefinitely large quantities. It is not, of course, there that
way — and we are to drill deeper and deeper and we are extracting now water,
that some of my geochemist friends tell me, is 10,000 years old,
that is being pulled out of the ground to be used, because that’s the rate of replenishment.
It’s minuscule compared to the rate of a withdrawal. So, is Zero Mass going
to replace groundwater as a primary source? Is it going to help people with
little to no access to clean water? Or is it just for people who buy a lot of
bottled water? Cody Friesen, the CEO, says all of the above. This takes us from a position of water scarcity to a position of water abundance for every person. And it’s a profound thing to say and I recognize it sounds profound but this technology entitles us to be aspirational because
of the fact that we can say, “Okay, yep they’re Syrian refugee issues in northern Lebanon, let’s go there.” “Yep, Maria hit Puerto Rico, yep, let’s go there.”
“Hey, there’s issues in Flint, let’s go there.” “Hey, by the way, you’re buying
bottled water in Berkeley. Let’s displace that.”
Same in Oakland, same in Scottsdale. There is still the cost to consider. Each panel costs $2,000 plus a $500 installation fee,
so $4,500 total for a two-panel array. So far, Zero Mass
says hundreds of panels have been set up in eight countries around the world.
For people in developed markets, that means they’re either early testers or they’re
paying out of pocket. In emergency situations or places where there’s a
lack of funding, the company is relying on donors, NGOs, or multilateral
institutions. The fact that it’s totally independent of any infrastructure, no wire, no pipe or anything, the fact that we can just put this anywhere, changes
your life. There’s no doubt Zero Mass is working hard
on an innovative way for people to have access to clean water without
electricity or sophisticated plumbing. Not surprisingly, others are working
on solutions like this too. The question then doesn’t seem to be
whether it’s too good to be true, it’s whether harvesting water from the
air is the most sustainable, most cost-effective solution for clean water. While Dr. Gadgil declined to comment on Zero Mass specifically, he said the method of harvesting water from the air wouldn’t be his first choice. Pulling water from moisture — condensing water from moisture in the air is viable if I was on a desert island, I had lots of money and there was no other source of fresh
water and I was going to die. Then the value of my life is what is now pitted
against the cost of that water. Instead, he says conserving water and recycling water, like the stuff we flushed down the toilet every day, are still more cost-effective than harvesting new water. We need to do both. But we should do whatever is cheaper and least damaging to the environment. In almost all cases, reusing the water, seems to be the cheaper way to go. Similarly, conserving water seems to be a
cheaper way to go, before you start harvesting it from the air. In the world of water, there may be different interpretations of sustainability and varying approaches to how to get clean water to more people. For Zero Mass, the company says the goal is to get to the point where the idea of water from
thin air, is just a part of people’s everyday conversations. You’re at a cocktail party and say, “Oh I’ve got solar on my roof,” people think, “Oh electricity,” to in a
small number of years, people saying, “Oh you have solar, are you talking about
electricity or water?” Let’s go up to the roof and check out our array up there. Okay. And Mike’s coming with us, right? Isn’t Mike coming with us? I think Mike was supposed to come with us. Yeah, Mike’s coming with us. Mike, we lost you. Oh, I was supposed to? Sorry. I was getting mixed signals.

100 thoughts on “Zero Mass’ solar panels turn air into drinking water

  • I want to install this at my farm .how can I get these panals..? Please give me Link , contact number or email id.

  • Ashok Gadgil invented UV water sterilization in the `90s? I learned about it in highschool, in `77 in Romania.

  • Most startup companies are scams, and this product is a scam. The Verge has way too many baby geniuses hired to figure out this is a dehumidifier that costs nearly $5000.

  • With a $1,000 1kw solar array I can run my 650 watt $250 dehumidifier which gets on a good day ~ 2 Gallons water, which in a pinch would be drinkable and survive a family of 4 for quite while. Of course FL is very Humid where I live. I would bet they are using peltier arrays to condense the water vapor into liquid.

  • Giving rise to the idea of a compressor dehumidifier that could to get started optionally have a hand crank (just to get to started) after which time the running wattage drops significantly.

  • wow, a device that can remove water from air, basically like removing humidity
    there should be a catchier name for something like that

  • They have actually installed a lot of those in Africa. From taxpayer money of course. I would love to see statistics on how many got legionella disease from this.

  • How many people realize they ALREADY own an Atmospheric Water Generator? Ever see the water dripping from an air conditioner? Where do you think that water is coming from? Of course, the trick is to capture and filter it for drinking.

  • Can this be more cost effective than distilling and remineralizing salt water? Does that thing use some kind of phase change cooler to make the water freeze?

  • It's wild how scientifically illiterate the reporters for a tech site are. Or they do understand what this is but don't care because it's good for clicks.

  • I can buy a dehumidifier that produces half a liter of water a day and consumes 60W for around 50 dollars…If I add solar panels to it….I could have a system capable of producing 5 liter of water for around 1k dollars…

  • Solar Atmospheric Water Generator (SAWG) is the single most important advancement facing mankind. As we move towards a decentralized society and leave the confines of name cities, a deprecated defect of the industrial revolution, we will become dependant on decentralized water and power. "Water from the sun" will colloquially deliver both the water and power we need to become not just sustainable but independent from the state for the basic necessities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the likes of which politicians cannot deliver.

  • standard household dehumidifier = water from air alternately power with solar panel, battery and inverter = free water anywhere

  • There's several ways of making water in a survival situation just using a large plastic bag. You can produce drinking water using the plastic bag where there trees or no trees. Works on the same principle this expensive system. For your home there's plenty of water purifiers and active carbon filters to provide suitable good tasting safe water for drinking/washing.

  • 👍🏼 nice. Solid tech for those of us that live off grid , in the desert where the water table is 350+ below ground, costing about $80 per ft to have drilled with casing, putting a well at 28,000$ to drill on the low end, before pump house ect, my neighbor spend close to 65k on a well, before putting the pumphouse in, so $2500 is totally reasonable under those conditions not to mention it opens up the prospect of undeveloped real estate that can be found relatively cheap. We also catch water as well, 1” of rain =.6 gallons of water, but that also gets pricy trying to design a catchment that has the surface needed for both domestic and irrigation, and the quality is always questionable without a solid filtration system that is also optimized for solar use which can easily run $500 and up. I’m guessing most folks knocking this as being “an expensive dehumidifier” have never actually tried to run a dehumidifier (or any other 750 Watt appliance) off of solar panels. You would likely need between 2-3KW array plus a sizable and expensive battery bank just to run a dehumidifier for 12 hours, so this looks Like a much more efficient way, if you were to add up the cost of upsizing your solar system to acomedate a running at least 12 hours per day. A friend has another similar system as this by a company “air to water” that plugs into a 110 volt outlet, also about the same price , both MUCH more efficient that a standard 750 watt dehumidifier, so yeah, $2500 is actually a drop in the bucket so to speak when considering the cost of developing a parcel off grid, and water is absolutely the most essential resource for off grid living.

  • Seems like an over-engineered solution. A simple 60sq ft rain roof with a gutter could collect 465 gallons/year or 5 liters per day of rainwater even in Arizona (much more in other places). It's just a matter of storing it when it falls. A 300-gallon water reservoir is only like $300, 60sq ft metal roofing, gutter and PVC pipe would be like $90. So for $390 you could have access to the same amount of clean renewable water, it would just take slightly more surface area. It would take out the variable of solar power as well.

  • Journos who cover science and technology topics really should have at least some background in science and technology. If you want large volumes of fresh water and nature isn't providing it, reverse osmosis desalination of sea water is by far the cheapest way to get it, even if you have to pump the water hundreds of miles inland and thousands of feet above sea level.

  • I’m excited to see where this goes in the future. We have 40 acres in North Central Arizona. There is no ground water, so no well can be drilled. We plan to dig a large pond, and collect rain water. But this would be great for drinking and cooking water.

  • WHY do you have to "mineralize" the water? You have created distilled water and you are probably adding fluoride which humans DO NOT NEED.

  • Have you ever read the warning label on a dehumidifier? Water from dehumidification doesn't contain the minerals you need and has to have them added. It has to be decontaminated – all of which costs energy and energy costs money. "But the solar, dude!" yup, okay, solar – which costs money to install and then amortize the costs of as well as maintain – there are no free rides. Oh, and if you live in a region with low humidity and/or temperatures, ya, you've just wasted your money, which is not skin off my arse and all, but it makes this Schadenfreude taste so, so good. So, water from the air – a false economy. Consider trucking in water or treating existing sources including rainwater, they're both far, far better, more sustainable solutions to water shortages than dehumidifier water.

  • Wish they could make a smaller version so it can fit on a truck. If your out somewhere or helping people after a natural disaster, and or off in another country were it's hard to find water. If you have a platform that will fit on a vehicle that would pretty cool

  • Here pet you seem sold on it take one of the units and go into a desert not taking any water with you and if you come out after a week we will know if it works !

  • So get a solar panel from harbor freight and charge batteries all day then run dehumidifier outside at night and filter with charcoal or reverse osmosis. Voila

  • This is the kind of technology that can be very useful in my country, where humidity can often reach 100% and become unbearable.

  • In Kuwait, the average amount of water from dehumidification of air conditioned water is around 100 liter/day for one average house. This is much more than the few liters per panel. Before dismissing it, it could be modified to use different humidity sources in the house or its water flows.

  • The production of water per panel is too costly and it needs more research
    Agree to the last comments of Dr. Ashok, we should make it cheap.

  • God damn, some people can sell anything with clever marketing 😀 This is so waste of perfectly good energy. Remove the dehumidifier part and you have something useful there.
    Honestly, reporters should make some research and not give these people free advertisement.
    Harvesting water from air is made to seem ok option in this piece, but it's pretty much worst option we have. This whole thing is gimmick that some cashgrab people sell, and some people buy because they are ignorant.

  • So from the video she says each unit collects around five litres per day and they cost about $2500? So it would take almost two years for it to produce water costing a dollar a litre.

    This is too expensive. Such units need to produce water costing less than a cent a litre.

  • It’s an expensive dehumidifier. This tech has been proven pointless over and over again. Does not provide enough water. Stop giving these companies publicity until they can prove they provide enough water.
    In an emergency it would be quicker, easier, and faster to just haul water in for people. Could you imagine telling people who don’t have any water to wait while the dehumidifier collects water lol

  • In humid areas – where this "invention" would work well – it is not needed, because there is already plenty of rain! And, in dry areas this "invention" is worthless at pulling water out of the air that just plain isn't there to be collected! This is just a SCAM!

  • 좋은 자료를 볼 수 있어 감사합니다. 깨끗한 물을 얻기위한 좋은 대안이 되길 기원합니다.

  • Are the panels water resistant? It rains a lot where I live. And I don't want them to take damage from the rain.

  • Well it comes from air also if we see closely and its the example we see cold on mountain or hill station or see pyramid structure also mountain can be made like wise or we already made it some big mountain in our past who knows ?????

    Thanks,

    Amit

  • Throw in a couple of tech jargons to make itself more legit and confuse the common man but at the end of the day this tech is just a dehumidifier and slapping it with a $4500 price tag. Not Bad

  • It sounds like 60 years ago. A new biological process will feed the hungry all over the world. Well. Well. It didn't. Poor floks don't have any money.

  • Thundercats!

    Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • It's a great and old idea that won't be remotely feasible before we can locally produce very, very cheap energy. Hopefully we'll get most of our water from the air by the year 2300.

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