Engineering, not magic: the 2011 winner of the James Dyson Award extracts water from thin air. Airdrop is a low cost, self powered, and easy to install solution to the problems of growing crops in arid regions. Inspired by Australia's worst drought in a century, Edward Linacre from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, turned to nature to find ways of capturing moisture from air.
Edward studied the Namib beetle, an ingenious species which lives in one of the driest places on earth. With half an inch of rain per year, the beetle can only survive by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back in the early mornings. Airdrop borrows this concept, working on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules which can be extracted by lowering the air's temperature to the point of condensation. It pumps air through a network of underground pipes, to cool it to the point at which the water condenses. Delivering water directly to the roots of plants.
Edward's research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic meter of air in the driest of deserts. Further iterations of his design will increase the yield of Airdrop. A further £10,000 has also be awarded to Edward's university department to support other young engineers keen to follow in his footsteps.
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