The truth about moisture vaporators

“I Need a Droid That Knows Something about the Binary Language of Independently Programmable Moisture Vaporators”

Owen Lars (Star Wars – A New Hope)

It is ironic that a concept as far fetched as machines that evaporate and collect moisture from the atmosphere could now somewhat relevant in some places in the world we live in. Who also knew that we could change the planet we live on so drastically in such a short period of time? I guess terraforming really is a thing. Interesting how life imitates art. Movies like Mad Max play homage to a future world with limited water resources, or those resources being hoarded by a few. Now while the world argues about climate change, and many countries lament the lack of growth in their oil industries, they fail to see what is right in front of their faces – the worlds next big commodity will be water. You can’t drink oil, and although it is seemingly important to produce a myriad of things – it can be replaced. You can make plastics from corn, and power can be found from other resources (yeah, *not* coal). But water? It’s harder to produce that. You can convert salt water, but that is as yet somewhat expensive, and still leaves the problem of what to do with over-salted brine residuals.

But what about moisture evaporators? Are they a notion of science-fiction? Hardly because we all know you can pull moisture from air – I do it every summer using a dehumidifier in the basement, and air conditioners do the same thing. So technology-wise it is extremely possible. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker lived on the family farm on the planet Tatooine, where they used “vaporators” to farm moisture from the air. Now these devices work well in a dry climate, because the other essential ingredient in the process is present – power, from the sun. Unlimited solar power in fact. Using the power to somehow cool warm air allows us to remove moisture from the air. This technology exists, and works well in warm humid climates, but not as well in dryer climates such as deserts. A simple method of producing water opts for more passive concepts – a cool surface onto which water vapour can condense.

Some recent research suggests that it is possible to use a new technique, using metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight. This technology could produce 2.8 litres of water a day per 1kg of material, as levels of relative humidity as low as 20% – using only solar energy. In the reality of the future world, such systems will be vital to survival of peoples in arid regions, or perhaps many regions where people can no longer rely on historical sources of water. Yes, moisture vaporators really are a thing. Maybe we could harness other sci-fi technology to fix our planet.

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