A solar panel on your roof could soon capture drinkable water for your faucet. Called Source, this solar panel system developed by Zero Mass Water, a startup with a mission to “democratize drinking water,” turns water vapor in the air into clean, drinkable water.
The water-gathering panel is made of a material created by Zero Mass Water that passively absorbs moisture in the air. In an interview with Business Insider, Cody Friesen, the company’s CEO, compares their technology to grains of rice placed inside salt shakers. Water binds more strongly to the rice grains than the salt, which prevents the salt from getting damp and clumpy. The material in a Source device absorbs water in a similar way, then the solar panels harvest the energy required to evaporate the water to purify it. Finally, the water runs through a mineral block, which improves its taste and nutritional value.
Friesen reports that, on average, one Source device produces 5 liters of water per day, which can then be stored in a metal compartment capable of holding up to 30 liters. Currently, a family of four would be about 3 liters short of having enough drinking water if everyone followed the 8-glasses-per-day rule, but the device could fill a vital need for drinking water in rescue camps and makeshift communities.
According to the World Health Organization, 663 million people, roughly 10 percent of the world’s population, lack access to safe water. It’s a massive sociopolitical challenge brought on by poor infrastructure and difficult living conditions.
Developments like Source could address these problems by being much more flexible than city-regulated piping. Zero Mass Water reports that their tech doesn’t need to be hooked up to a home’s electrical system or a power grid and is 100 percent renewable. Panel installation takes only about 20 minutes, and the devices have already been installed in places like Ecuador, Jordan, Mexico, and the U.S.
The WHO also reports that clean water can not only prevent disease, it can improve a country’s economy and reduce poverty. Together with similar tech like Watly and Water-Gen, Source is helping us bring safe water to everyone in the world. Perhaps in the future, when you turn on the tap to get a glass of water, it’ll be flowing straight from panels on your roof instead of pipes in the ground.