Using disposable diapers against drought

Looking for a solution to water shortages resulting from intense droughts in many parts of the world, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), discovered a method in response. Using disposable baby diapers to collect steam from the air.

Disposable diapers

The answer lies in disposable baby diapers.

MIT has developed an incredible superabsorbent material with which it can extract a large amount of water from the air, even when the relative humidity is less than 30%. This breakthrough was achieved by applying the technology used in baby diapers. The method is based on hydrogels developed with cross-linked polymers and water. This innovation promises to have a significant impact on water extraction.

To achieve this, they studied how to extract the moisture present in the air, absorb that moisture and convert it into water. There are some salts that are effective in extracting vapor from the air. One of them is lithium chloride, which can absorb 10 times its mass, extracting moisture from the environment.

However, to take advantage of this capacity of lithium chloride, it is necessary to have a container where to store the water. So they thought of the hydrogel and the possibility of combining these two characteristics into one.

Tests that point the way forward

Although they are not the first to test this technology, the MIT researchers deepened research done earlier. The amount of salt that can be incorporated into a hydrogel is limited, about 4 to 6 grams of salt per gram of polymer. However, the first results were not very satisfactory, 1.5 grams of vapor per gram of the material used.

But they did not give up and went even further with the research. Instead of testing for one or two days to absorb moisture from the air, the MIT team extended the experiment for a whole month.

And these results were more than promising, the hydrogel continued to incorporate salt until it reached 24 grams. In this way they obtained a rubbery and transparent material, which, when heated and condensed, transforms into water.

Results raise hopes for the future

Although the test results were very positive, there is still a long way to go. There are numerous places on the planet where drought is causing major problems. Not only for the economy of the region, but also for the lives of the inhabitants who do not have access to drinking water, which is indispensable for life.

Villages with lack of drinking water
Image by Midia NINJA

With this technology, water could be extracted from the air, even if the relative humidity is very low. Passive collectors can be created to store water in places where drought is frequent.

The tests are satisfactory and it is now necessary to move forward to make it a fact, also taking into account the costs. It must be easy to manufacture and inexpensive so as not to further resent regional economies.

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