Innovative technology produces water and electricity in the desert » El Horticultor

Combining photovoltaic panels and an absorbent hydrogel, an experimental system developed by scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, is able to combine the production of electricity and water for irrigation, used in agricultural crops in the desert.

The new technology solves the lack of electricity and water in the desert landscapes, with these two resources certain types of food can be grown.

“Our project extracts water from the air using clean energy that would otherwise be wasted and is suitable for small decentralized farms in remote locations such as deserts and ocean islands,” says Peng Wang, professor of science and engineering. environmental engineering at the University. of Science and King Abdullah Technology (KAUST).


How it works?

Innovative technology generates water and electricity in the desert

The system, called WEC2P, consists of solar panels placed on top of a layer of hydrogel. This combination of the solar panel and the hydrogel forms the lid of the slanted metal box with a spike at the bottom.

The hydrogel was developed in previous research by Wang and his team and is able to absorb water vapor from surrounding air and release the water content when heated.

This box is left open overnight for the hydrogel to absorb moisture from the air. With the arrival of day and the rays of the sun, the box closes and the panels work, generating electricity.

The water absorbed by the hydrogel evaporates with the heat and goes to the back of the panel. As this water flows from the panel to the enclosure, it cools the equipment and ensures up to 9% more efficient operation.

The water flows to the bottom of the metal box and is collected by the tap. The liquid can be used for irrigation and even for drinking.

To turn the experimental system into a real product, the team is working on a hydrogel that can absorb more water from the air.


Innovative technology generates water and electricity in the desert

A small-scale test of the system was carried out in Saudi Arabia. Using a photovoltaic panel and a table-sized layer of hydrogel, the installation generated a total of 1,519 watt-hours of electricity, as well as approximately 2 liters of water.

This water was used to irrigate 60 spinach seeds sown in a plastic grow box, 57 of which germinated and reached 18 cm in height.

The findings were published in Cell Reports Physical Science and could offer a low-cost, long-lasting solution to improving food and water security for people living in arid regions.

“Ensuring that everyone on Earth has access to safe drinking water and clean energy at an affordable price is part of the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. I hope our project can be a decentralized power and water system to light homes and irrigate crops,” says Peng Wang.

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