Engineers at the Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a low-cost gel film made of abundant materials that can pull water from the air in even the driest climates.
The researchers used renewable cellulose and a common kitchen ingredient, konjac gum, as a main hydrophilic (attracted to water) skeleton. The open-pore structure of gum speeds up the moisture-capturing process. Another designed component, thermo-responsive cellulose with hydrophobic (resistant to water) interaction when heated, helps release the collected water immediately so that overall energy input to produce water is minimized. The film is flexible and can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the need of the user. Making the film requires only the gel precursor, which includes all the relevant ingredients poured into a mold. The materials cost a mere $2 per kilogram, and a single kilogram can produce more than 6 liters of water per day in areas with less than 15 percent relative humidity and 13 liters in areas with up to 30 percent relative humidity.
The University of Texas, Austin
The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and drinking water for soldiers in arid climates is a big part of the project.
The researchers also envision this as something that people could someday buy at a hardware store and use in their homes because of the simplicity.
Contact Nat Levy, Cockrell School of Engineering at