Forgot your password?

Back to login

Pulling potable water directly from air
January 4, 2018, 5:31 pm

If the title sounds improbable then you have never seen Zero Mass in work. Because that is exactly what Zero Mass does: harvest drinking water out of thin air, using a combination of materials science, solar power, and predictive data. The goal is to use this technology to go from a position of “water scarcity to water abundance,” said founder and chief executive Cody Friesen, regardless of whether you are in an area where access to clean water is a serious problem, or living in a place where bottled water is often half-drunk and discarded.

Zero Mass’s water-harvesting technology has been in the works for the past six years. It was first developed at Arizona State University, where Friesen was teaching engineering and materials science. Over the past couple years, Zero Mass’s panels — called Source — have been available to specific customers: multi-lateral institutions, recipients of emergency aid, investors, and friends of the company.

But just a couple weeks ago, Source became more widely available to consumers in the US.
At the highest level, Zero Mass “takes sunlight and air and we produce water,” Friesen said, as he showed me the Source panels. “As you drill into that, the air part of that equation is applying air into the materials that like water. So in the same way that when you leave the lid off a sugar bowl the sugar bowl gets a little clumpy, that’s because that sugar likes the water in the air. Our materials do exactly that.”

“It’s a multi-step system. The middle strip of a Source panel is what you’d call a standard solar panel. On either side is a proprietary porous material that generates heat. Another proprietary material inside the panel absorbs the moisture from the air. Then the panel uses sunlight to take the water back out of those materials and produce a process that’s not unlike water forming on grass; basically, when warm air hits a surface colder than itself. At that point the condensed water ends up in a 30-liter reservoir under the panel,“ explained Friesen.

The water is then flowed through a mineral block that adds calcium and magnesium, and brings the PH up so it’s slightly alkaline,” Friesen said, adding that the final product has what he calls “perfect mouth-feel.” Each panel costs $2000 and produces an average of two to five liters of water per day, Friesen said. A two-panel array costs $4500: $2000 per panel, plus a $500 installation fee.

Zero Mass’s network operations center, a small room lined with computer monitors is where engineers spend their days keeping a close eye on the performance of the panels distributed around the world, as well as changes in weather patterns that could impact water production. Each of the panels is connected, sending data not only to home base but also to the other panels in an array.

Zero Mass’s approach to harvesting water appears to be a technically sound process. And, as Friesen pointed out, Source’s total structural independence may be one of its most innovative features. But the company’s goal of making Source available to everyone, everywhere, is an ambitious one.

“Condensing water from moisture in the air, is viable if I was on a desert island, I had lots of money and there was no other source of fresh water and I was going to die,” said one skeptic about Zero Mass’s new product. “Then the value of my life is what is now pitted against the cost of that water.”

Share your views

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

"Envy comes from wanting something that isn't yours. But grief comes from losing something you've already had."

Photo Gallery