New Technology Brings Star Wars–Style Desert Moisture Farming a Step Closer – By Amin Al-Habaibeh April 18, 2017


Scientists have found a way to pull water from the air using only energy from the sun

Star Wars moisture ‘vaporators’. Credit: Véronique Debord-Lazaro Flickr (CC BY-SA)

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

Luke Skywalker wasn’t just a farmer. In the original 1977 Star Wars film, the lead character was desperate to leave his home planet of Tatooine, where his family farmed moisture from the atmosphere using devices called “vaporators”. In the planet’s hot and dry desert landscape, moisture farming was an important activity for survival.

But could this principle of drawing moisture from the air to provide drinking water work in the real world? Researchers and I are working on technology to turn it from science fiction into reality. And now a new study has demonstrated how one device could work even in dry desert conditions using only the power of the sun.

If you sit in your garden on a hot, humid summer day with an iced glass of water, you will notice water droplets forming on the outside of the glass. The Star Wars vaporators on Tatooine may have worked using a similar principle. Cooling down warm air produces condensation, which can then be collected. Rain is actually a natural phenomenon of the same principle. When warm, humid air cools, it loses its capacity to maintain its water content and precipitation occurs in the form of raindrops.

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