Drinking Water Generated by Billboard in Peru

By on March 19, 2014

Drinking water is so readily available in America that it is easy to forget about the 1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to this life necessity.

In developing countries, people spend a substantial portion of their day searching for water and transporting back to their homes. This task, often given to young girls, prevents children from being able to attend school.

Wells are an alternative water source for areas with low levels of annual precipitation, but the water is often polluted.

Engineering students at the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) teamed up with an ad agency called Mayo DraftFCBand to create a billboard for the university that provides drinking water— out of thin air.

Lima, Peru, receives less than 2 inches of rainfall each year. However, the relative humidity remains around 98%. The students at UTEC designed a billboard that draws in the moisture from the humid air with five condensers, similar to those found in air conditioners.

As the air comes into contact with the condensers of lower temperature, water vapor cools to its liquid state. Reverse osmosis purifies the water before it can be used by the community.

In the normal process of osmosis, water moves from areas of low solute concentration to high solute concentration in order to restore equilibrium. By adding pressure to a solution, the low concentration of solute filters its particles to the areas of higher concentration, essentially filtering out impurities in water.

In just 3 months, the billboard provided people in Lima with 9,450 liters of water.

During the same time of the board’s construction, a study was published in The Cryosphere reporting a 30-50% decrease in size of the Andean glaciers since the 1970s. These glaciers serve as a fresh water source for many countries including Peru.

Drastic climate changes have spurred other conservative innovation such as NanoGanesh, where farmers conserve water electricity by using their mobile phones to turn off irrigation systems. The UN is preparing for a strain on internal water sanitation systems, with an estimated 60% of the population moving into city life within the next decade.

The billboard project began in Peru because of a decrease in enrollment into the engineering program at UTEC. The current students were seeking creative venues to showcase their innovative potential to attract prospective students.

They can now boast of a water-supplying system that costs under $1,200 and produces over 96 liters of safe drinking water each day.

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