Solar Cucumbers and Airdrop Irrigation are Two Wet and Wild Ideas

airdrop irrigation
We showcase two wet clean tech ideas, have any more?

Fresh water constitutes less than 3 percent of the world’s water, yet supplies have been adequate to meet global needs – until now.  The United Nations estimates that 20% of the world’s population lives in regions of water scarcity, with another 20% facing chronic undersupply. Studies indicate that two-thirds of the world will be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025.  Anyone else feeling thirsty?

We can attack this many ways. As a start, control consumption; develop better water management; and prevent pollution. Intelligent design also has a role. I’m talking smart mechanical systems, not anti-Darwinism.

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.

~Isak Dinesen

Creative solutions are capturing, converting, and wringing freshwater from our air and oceans. British industrial designer Phil Pauley’s “Solar Cucumber” pictured below is an innovative desalination plant currently under development. This solar-powered floating factory alchemizes seawater into potable water.  It uses multiple-effect humidification to evaporate and condense the briny fluid while removing its salt.

solar cucumber Phil Pauley

Pauley’s Cucumber can be situated on coastal land or set afloat to generate fresh water for parched communities. It can be deployed in disaster and environmental relief situations. It’ll generate clean water at the saline source, rather than miles away from where it’s needed, reducing costly transportation. The designer envisages permanent off-shore installations, with the units’ anchorage forming part of an artificial reef, encouraging biodiversity and marine habitat growth.

Melbourne-based designer Edward Linacre’s concept is full of air

His “Airdrop” irrigation system harvests moisture directly from the atmosphere, helping  Aussie farmers cope with perpetual droughts. Also powered by solar cells, the low-tech, low maintenance Airdrop pulls air below ground, where it naturally cools and condenses. Captured in underground tanks, the air-harvested water is next pumped to plantings through drip irrigation tubing. Airdrop, which won its designer the 2011 James Dyson Award, automatically monitors solar battery life, water levels and system pressure and health.

As temperatures continue to increase so too will the frequency and duration of severe droughts worldwide. The various atmospheric water harvesting technologies now in play are mostly high-tech and costly.  The low-tech, low-cost Airdrop is an ideal solution for the rural farming market worldwide.

Green Prophet has reported elsewhere on the urgent global need for clean cookstoves.  Food and water form the foundation of our human needs pyramid.  Design solutions can only succeed if they are affordable, scalable, and easily transported and installed to point of need. Both of these examples are simple and portable.  They can fully reach global markets and are specifically applicable to the Middle East and North Africa.

The principles of these designs can be incorporated into the larger built environment. I can imagine coastal highways and bridges that capture tidal energy while converting salt to fresh water, and waterfront buildings that generate a portion of their freshwater needs. These will create their own environmental impacts, which need be assessed and mitigated. But these ideas are intriguing.

Calling all underemployed engineers, architects, designers and tinkerers.  See what these gents have come up with.  Can we beat it?

Image of Linacre and Airdrop via Gizmag,com; image of Solar Cucumber from Phil Pauley

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