In 2018, Cody Friesen, PhD ’04, trekked through the bush in Kenya’s Rift Valley to comprehend the perils the girls of the Samburu Girls Foundation faced when they went out to gather water.
The device uses solar-powered fans to draw air inside, where water vapor is adsorbed onto a proprietary hygroscopic material-a desiccant that Friesen engineered at the nanoscale to maximize its ability to attract water without compromising its ability to release the water that collects on its surface.
The hygroscopic material effectively attracts only water molecules, so the combined processes of adsorption and passive condensation consistently deliver water of high purity.
In theory, even water harvested from polluted air is pure, says Friesen, who adds that all the company’s measurements to date confirm that.
Friesen says the two units on the roof of his Arizona home provide enough drinking water for his family of four plus two Weimaraners, in a place with an average 110 days of triple-digit temperatures and more than seven months of single-digit humidity.
To make progress toward his vision of providing water “For every person in every place,” Friesen will need to bring the cost down.
Friesen says Zero Mass Water takes up most of his time these days, but he remains a part-time associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s sustainability institute.