NUS engineers create ‘smart’ aerogel that turns air into drinking water

Some say future wars will be fought over water, and a billion people around the world are already struggling to find enough water to live.

Now, researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) are coming to the rescue. They have created a substance that extracts water from air without any external power source.

In the earth’s atmosphere, there is water that can fill almost half a trillion Olympic swimming pools. But it has long been overlooked as a source for potable water.

To extract water from this underutilised source, a team led by Professor Ho Ghim Wei from the NUS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering created a type of aerogel, a solid material that weighs almost nothing. Under the microscope, it looks like a sponge, but it does not have to be squeezed to release the water it absorbs from the air. It also does not need a battery. In a humid environment, one kilogramme of it will produce 17 litres of water a day.

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