Israeli Company Creates Drinking Water Out of Thin Air

EWA has developed technology to trap water, essentially reusing 85 ppercent of energy input to system.

An Israeli company has developed a clean technology to extract water from the air while using little energy in the process.

The key to the project, launched by the Extraction of Water from Air (EWA), is in its unique water adsorption technology - which employs a solid desiccant to trap the water - and a special energy saving condenser that reuses more than 85 percent of the energy input to the system.

For Dr. Etan Bar, CEO of EWA, it was a question of priorities. His company, which focuses both on solar energy and clean water extraction from the air, had already developed a new solar energy air conditioner that was sparking interest in the industry, but Bar realized that clean water was a far more pressing need.

He put aside the air conditioner and began working on a new technology that could collect humidity naturally present in the air and turn it into clean water.

It sounds like a far-fetched idea, but it's actually thousands of years old. It was mentioned in the Bible and in ancient Jewish prayers, and archaeologists still find the stones Israelite farmers used thousands of years ago to collect dew for watering their crops.

The technology, Bar tells ISRAEL21c, works in three steps: first is the absorption of air's humidity, then the removal of water from a solid desiccant (silica based gel granules) which holds the water, and third, condensation.

The absorption of the humidity is an exothermic process (involving heat release), humidity absorption occurs spontaneously, and only minimal energy is used as the air is pumped through the unit.

Heat recovery techniques are integrated as part of the condenser, reducing the cost for producing water to a reasonable price, similar to other processes, such as desalination.

EWA, which was founded in 2006, is based on nine years of research by Bar, a former researcher at Ben Gurion University.

The company now has representatives in the U.S., India, Jordan, Cyprus, Australia and West Africa where EWA is helping farmers generate carbon credits, on top of providing them with clean water for drinking and irrigating their crops.

EWA, which employs 12, is currently operated out of Be'er Sheva. Last year was the first year the company reported its earnings, at about $100,000, while this year, it predicts sales upwards of $5 million, and $100 million for 2009, mainly due to growing demand from Africa, India and Australia. The bottleneck right now is being able to supply demand, says Bar.

As global warming heats the world, and its population continues to grow, there is less water for everyone: "Due to the effectiveness at extremely wide ranges of environmental conditions and due to its low energy consumption, huge water plants could be built and operated using the novel EWA technology," says Bar.

"The technology answers the world's desires for available, clean and safe water - without air pollution from energy production - and expensive infrastructure," he concludes.

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