It was in the middle of summer in Maine, USA in 2015. For about one month, because the warm moist air collects in the basement, I needed to empty the dehumidifier each day; yes even in Maine it is hot and humid for a month or so. During one of these times, I was thinking that it may be a good idea for a product to have one of these in places that are hot and humid and lacking in clean drinking water. Pretty amazing, I thought, water straight from the air where it wasn’t before.
About six months later, when traveling back on a business trip, I was reassessing the many years that I have spent in a job that is satisfying enough technically, but not benefiting something I believe in, doing a greater good for my values. Then the dehumidifier as water source idea took seed and started to grow: better if solar generated so can be part of off-grid communities and places with poor electricity infrastructure as well as poor access to clean water; also better if a connected appliance (IOT), so major functioning parameters can be accessed anywhere; and with the IOT, it is possible to do a pay as you go system. OK aims were starting to form, now some research into existing products.
In this case, there is a whole industry making atmospheric water generators (AWG), also called air to water machines. The most common method of atmospheric water generation used is the cooling condensing method. With this technique, warm humid air is pulled in with a fan, that air is cooled to below its dew point, and hence water condenses, and collects. That water becomes safe to drink after going through substantial filtration to filter out sediment as well as microbes from the atmosphere.
The air is cooled using a circulating refrigerant that is compressed and then put through a condenser before pumped to the evaporator where it cools the air. The rate of water produced is determined by the temperature of the air, the relative humidity of the air, and the power of the compressor. This is the main limitation of this method: the compressor is very power hungry.
As I was investigating, I saw that most of the systems used inefficient AC compressors. Even those marketed for solar use, first had to convert the power from the solar panels to make it work in an inefficient AC compressor (making the “green” option more inefficient).
The Agua Machine is optimally designed for solar panel power; it is an atmospheric water generator solar appliance, using a more efficient DC system to match the DC output of the solar panels. This method can give a 20%-30% increase of efficiency. Quite dramatic really.Hence I came up with the specs of an innovative water generating solar appliance, The Agua Machine, and this is what we are basing the design on:
- Direct Solar Powered.
- 40L of water per day (with 70degF and 60% humidity)
- Innovative high efficiency design based on DC compressor and full DC system
- Designed for the uniqueness of Solar Power Generation
- Extensive filtering eradicates bacteria, microbes, and particles
- A fully connected IOT product
The Agua Machine will supply self sufficient, clean drinking water and can be seen as a cost effective alternative to bottled water, and certainly help minimize the growing mountains of plastic bottles.
Coincidently I have experience of most of the electrical challenges from this design but I was definitely lacking in the knowledge of the dehumidifier and filter design. Luckily I was able to connect with Roland Wahlgren of Atmoswater Research, an expert in atmospheric water generators. I am glad to say Roland is part of the team in the design of the Agua Machine.
The design and development of the Agua Machine is progressing, we (Rob helping with Software and Pieter with mechanical engineering) are all excited to be working on a unique product; the aim is to produce a technical functioning prototype, and then run a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the building of full prototypes. I have been involved in a few products, and different industries, but with the Agua Machine, I feel strongly that I am doing good in being part of the solution to hundreds of millions of people with challenges to regular, reliable clean water.