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SFU prof and student developing system that pulls water out of thin air

The Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator (HAWgen) produces clean drinking water from the atmosphere using adsorption, refrigeration and filtration systems.

Majid Bahrami demonstrates his Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator which produces clean drinking water from the atmosphere.

Contributed/SFU

Majid Bahrami demonstrates his Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator which produces clean drinking water from the atmosphere.

A professor at Simon Fraser University is leading a research project that pulls water out of thin air, even in hot, dry weather.

Majid Bahrami and his PhD student Farshid Bagheri spent three years working to find a solution to the world's growing demand for drinkable water.

“Our ancestors used to dig for water in the ground, but now we can take water from the sky,” Bahrami explained Monday.

The device has been identified as one of six technologies that's going to change the 21st century, he said.

The research team at SFU's School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering developed the patent-pending device called the Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator (HAWgen), which produces clean drinking water from the atmosphere using adsorption, refrigeration and filtration systems.

It was developed at Bahrami's Lab for Alternative Energy Conservation at SFU's Surrey campus and will be marketed through their company, Watergenics Inc.

The device, about the size of a small bar fridge, can be powered by solar and uses waste heat to generate water, even in hot dry conditions.

Previously, most atmospheric water generation systems needed hot, humid conditions.

But the new HAWgen takes incoming air using adsorption, channels it into a refrigeration system to collect the condensation, then filters the water.

It can generate up to five times the amount of water a day than conventional atmospheric generation systems.

The current prototype uses electricity but it still costs less to produce a litre than consumers pay at Costco, Bahrami said.

The next generation, expected later this year, will use renewable energy such as solar and could be scaled up to produce 100,000 litres a day for places hit by natural disasters or depleted aquifers, he said.

It extracts water from the atmosphere's 13 trillion cubic metres of renewable fresh water, which is replenished by ocean evaporation.

The new technology will play a role in the City of Surrey's BioPod Initiative, a regional hub for agri-tech innovation where researchers can test solutions to improve year-round food production.

Earlier this year, Bahrami was the recipient of a Canada Clean50 Award and Watergenics has been short-listed for an award in the most promising pre-commercial technology category by the BC Technology Industry Association.

He also has earned more than $10 million in funding for his alternative energy research projects.

"He is creative and clearly a leader in this important area," SFU's dean of Applied Sciences, Uwe Glasser, said in a statement about Bahrami.

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