A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away...
Nearly forty years ago the international phenomenon known as Star Wars hit the big screen and changed the world of fantasy and science fiction forever. This week the newest iteration will hit theaters in an attempt to do the same thing for a whole new generation of fans and scientists.
Wait a minute. Scientists?
That’s right - scientists - because many things that the series once introduced as science fiction have now been made science fact. While a few of the innovations have been more for novelty than others (See: lightsabers and speeder bikes), we’ve also seen the invention of military grade laser cannons that could help reduce the cost of battle (See: Star Destroyers) and have made extensive leaps and bounds in the world of prosthetics to give amputees better mobility. It’s even believed that we may be close to helping those with prosthetics to feel through their artificial limbs (See: Luke Skywalker).
One additional advancement that we could all be using in a few years involves moisture farming. For those who are familiar with the movies, you may remember that those in the Lars family, AKA the aunt and uncle of protagonist Luke Skywalker, were moisture farmers on an arid planet. While details on the process are never shared in the trilogies, scientists have worked to fill in needed gaps.
The science behind such a process is relatively straightforward, so much so, in fact, that nature actually blueprinted it for us. As the air outside cools, the temperature of many objects drops below the dew point. When this happens, the air is no longer able to hold additional moisture and it condenses into a liquid form. If you were able to store the condensation and purify it, you’d be able to make water following nature’s blueprint in your own backyard. Here's a video that diagrams the process in a little more detail.
What’s made this process complicated though is the amount of energy that’s always been required to do so in a man made way, but an Israeli company called Water-Gen believes it’s solved that problem. They produce a portable water generator that harvests water out of the air and filters it so that it’s ready for drinking. If that sounds a lot like what you’d expect from someone that specializes in moisture farming, then you’ve done a good job following along.
What makes these new generators different from ones in the past is the efficiency behind them. Rather than use continuous energy to bring air in and work to cool it, this model leverages the cold, moistureless air byproduct it creates to cool new air without wasting additional power. One of their military grade units is estimated to be able to produce as much as 210 gallons of water per day for as little as two cents per liter. One good day of moisture farming through the system could then keep a family of four well hydrated for a hundred days. This better performance has made the units more feasible for wide scale adoption. With the ongoing concerns in America and around the world about water conservation and safety, it’s good to know that we are approaching potential solutions to help turn fresh water into a renewable resource.
What to Watch For
As you may have guessed, there are a number of factors that affect the speed of farming. Warm, moist air provides the best opportunity for maximizing your harvest while conserving the most energy. If you were to take up moisture farming it would be beneficial to watch the humidity levels in the air to best utilize the system. With the amount of H2O that these machines are able to create, it’s even possible that townships, states, or even countries could work to supplement drier areas with mass amounts of clean water from higher yield locales. This, in reality, isn’t any different than traditional farming where certain areas are more lush for growing crops. It will still be some time before such an idea is ready to implement, but you should be comfortable in assuming that one day this, like many things we will see in the upcoming movie release, is another fiction that will one day become fact.