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Researchers want to try to extract fresh water from ocean vapor

Researchers want to try to extract fresh water from ocean vapor

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When you think of harvesting freshwater from the sea, you might picture costly and polluting desalination plants. However, a team of researchers thinks there may be a simpler strategy: collecting the water vapor that forms naturally above the sea’s surface.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign scientists have proposed a device that would capture water vapor over the ocean, creating a supply of freshwater for arid communities. In a new paper, they also analyzed 14 arid locations where the hypothetical device could one day be deployed. Filming locations include the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Los Angeles. An article describing their work was published in Nature Scientific Reports.

The team looked at humidity data from 1990 to 2019 to analyze the water vapor available in different locations. “These locations, chosen to represent climatic variability, are near centers of high population density that are near oceans in arid regions around the world,” the researchers write in the study. “As expected, they are located in the subtropical regions of both the northern and southern hemispheres, where the largest arid and semiarid areas exist.”

The figure shows a proposed approach to capture vapor across sea surfaces and transport it to land.

According to the study, the imaginary offshore structures — measuring 330 feet (100 meters) tall and 690 feet (210 meters) wide — would be placed several kilometers offshore to maximize their ability to collect water vapor. The structure would collect water vapor and send it back to land through a pipe, where it would condense into fresh water.

“Essentially, our approach mimics the natural physical process of the hydrological cycle by which evaporated moisture is transported inland from the ocean, cools and condenses, only to fall to the land surface as precipitation, except that we propose to route through it to construct this The evaporated moisture moves and so controls the location where the water is made available through controlled condensation,” they wrote in their article.

Praveen Kumar, executive director and study leader at the Prairie Research Institute, said drought-stricken locations like the American Southwest would be ideal recipients of this collected water.

“We are on a path where the climate is changing. One of the main lenses through which climate change affects humans is water,” Kumar told Earther. “In this case, in a warmer climate, more water evaporates and as a result there is more moisture available to trap. So in a warmer climate you need more water and there is more moisture available to meet the demand.”

Kumar also said that if this concept were to become a reality, it could be more environmentally friendly compared to other water solutions. “Desalination has played a very important role in providing freshwater access, but it has its challenges [with] Sustainability in terms of waste,” he said. As a waste product, desalination plants produce brine, a super-salty mixture filled with chemicals. Brine can be toxic to wildlife.

Water access solutions are urgently needed. About 2 billion people live in regions with water scarcity, and this number may increase as climate change makes droughts more common.

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