At the children’s ward of a local hospital, for example, tap water isn’t safe to drink for children with compromised immune systems.
The hospital now has a new source of readily available, clean drinking water: It’s using solar-powered “Hydropanels” on the roof that pull moisture from the air.
“We’re not only solving for resilient drinking water but also reducing plastic waste,” says Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water, the startup that makes the technology in use at the hospital, the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.
Nanomaterials inside each panel absorb vapor from the air, and then solar power pushes the water into a reservoir, where minerals are added for taste.
Globally, around 2.1 billion people don’t have clean drinking water at home, either because water infrastructure doesn’t exist or because the water flowing through pipes is contaminated.
In Puerto Rico, the company installed panels at fire stations after Hurricane Maria when local water supplies were cut off, and that water source is now in place for future storms.
Eventually, water made from the panels could be as cheap as other sources of potable water anywhere in the world, from regions that struggle with long droughts to coastal communities that suffer from saltwater seeping into local water supplies.