Billboard Creates Drinkable Water from Thin Air

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University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC)


A billboard that turns humidity into drinking water




Clean water and a raised university profile

Photo Credit: UTEC

Water scarcity is emerging as one of the most pressing global issues, but it also represents an incredible opportunity for problem-solving innovation. One such example is found outside of Lima, Peru, where total rainfall is virtually zero and humidity can reach up to 98 percent, resulting in a shortage of potable water. With this in mind, researchers at the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Lima and advertising agency Mayo Peru DraftFCB partnered to create a billboard that captures moisture from the air and converts it into filtered drinking water.

The billboard contains hidden harvesting, conversion and purification mechanisms that include an air filter, condenser, carbon filter, and cold tank. These components make up an electric system that utilizes reverse osmosis to deliver 25 gallons of drinkable water at the base of the billboard, on a daily basis. “There is a lot of water. It is right there in the sea, but it is not suitable for drinking purposes, and costs a lot of money to process it,” says UTEC spokesperson Jessica Rua. This system, on the other hand, only cost $1,200 to set up.

Originally planned to function as a way to attract applicants to its engineering program, UTEC never anticipated the billboard to make such a big impact. In addition to becoming a vital part of daily life for locals, it’s also turned it into a roadside attraction, attracting curious motorists. It seems like it’s been a win-win situation for everyone involve, though – more than 2,496 gallons of potable water have been created since its December 2012 installation, to go along with a 28 percent increase in applications to the university.

Drew Nitschke is a first-year graduate student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, working towards degree in Environmental Economics and Policy. He is especially interested in sustainability and how it relates to business of all sizes. He graduated from UCLA in June 2012 after...
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