Atmospheric Water Harvester Using a Gel with Embedded Salt


Passively Generate Water From Air

Case ID:
UNLV 2022-001

Many parts of the world lack convenient access to clean water. People in these areas are restricted to using what’s available or relying on expensive technology to turn moisture in the air into water. This adds challenges and costs to activities as varied as weekend camping trips and military deployments.

Summary of Technology:
Our research has created an inexpensive gel-based atmospheric water harvester and dehumidifier that is less expensive, more energy efficient, and requires fewer parts than current technology in the marketplace.

This invention can be continuously operated throughout the day, even in remote areas off the electrical grid. As a water harvester, drinking water can be generated from thin air, and as a dehumidifier, humidity can be reduced and water can be recovered and recycled.

The device captures water vapor from ambient air and transforms it into liquid form, which can easily be distilled into a pure and potable form. The invention resembles a liquid desiccation system that is typically used for dehumidification in air conditioning.

The novelty of this approach is the use of a gel membrane through which water vapor contained in ambient air transforms into liquid form. This capture and transformation occurs passively in a natural environment, while the subsequent distillation can occur via solar heating and ambient cooling, or by electrical heating and cooling. 

This invention provides the benefit of simplified operation with a solid-state design over liquid desiccants. It allows for continuous water harvesting and distillation while other designs would need to operate in separate absorption and regeneration phases. The device uses affordable polymeric materials and common salts, making it less expensive than existing offerings.

The process does not require a refrigeration system to lower the temperature of a component below ambient temperatures, something many current technologies require. It is also effective in arid climates where conventional refrigeration-based systems are not able to harvest water

The concept of passive atmospheric water harvesting utilizes natural wind to bring air with humidity into the harvester where it is transformed into liquid form. Subsequently, solar heating can provide distillation to purify the captured liquid water. An existing prototype has been shown to capture several liters of water per day per square meter of device footprint on a rooftop of a UNLV building.


Potential areas of application:
Military deployments
Steam tower water recovery

Stage of development:
Early stage

Intellectual Property:
Filed on October 28, 2022

Contact Manager:
Zach Miles, JD
Associate Vice President for Technology & Partnerships
Office of Economic Development
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Office: 702-895-4507

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Zachary Miles
Associate Vice President for Technology & Partnerships
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Han-Jae Cho
Yiwei Gao
Ryan Phung
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