This Long-Awaited Invention May Finally End the World’s Worst Problem

What we take for granted is a dream for many others

Eugenio De Lucchi


Photo by Gyan Shahane on Unsplash

Historically, water has been one of humanity’s biggest challenges. The World Health Organization estimates that about half of the world’s population will be in water-stressed regions by 2025.

Today, nearly 800 million people lack access to clean water. And the problem is likely to intensify as the climate crisis accelerates.

In parallel, the existing potable water infrastructure has several problems. Lead contamination and frequent water outages are some examples.

Cody Friesen, professor of materials at Arizona State University, argues that regarding water, we are stuck in the Roman era.

He became passionate about the cause of water scarcity in his travels in Indonesia and Central America. And when asked how to make water as accessible as air, he responded with an innovative solution: hydropanels.

Hydropanels create water from the air and take it to where it is most needed. In this way, water becomes a renewable resource everywhere.

For Friesen, rainwater harvesting has never been a solution because, to work, rainfall must be predictable. Something that climate change will make less and less possible in the future.

Panels are capable of producing drinking water essentially anywhere on the planet. All they need is air and sunlight.

Their technology revolves around hygroscopy. In other words, the ability of a material to absorb water vapor.

The working principle is the same that prevents salt from clumping when you add some rice to the salt shaker. The rice, having a higher hygroscopic capacity, absorbs the water vapor, and the salt stays dry.

The hydropanels’ nanomaterials do precisely the same absorbing the water vapor present in the air. The system then condenses it 10,000 times and converts it to liquid water through the sun’s heat.

In Friesen’s words, the technology replicates the early morning condition that forms the dew on the leaves. The only difference is that hydropanels can reproduce it anywhere –even in the middle of the Sahara desert.