Wouldn’t it be great if we could harness the water vapor in the air to irrigate plants in areas with little precipitation? Well, that may happen sooner than you think thanks to a team of scientists from the National University of Singapore who have developed an experimental device that turns atmospheric humidity into the water for irrigation.
Dubbed SmartFarm, the solar-powered automated device consists of a transparent acrylic box that has vegetable plants growing in the soil at the bottom. On top, a hydrogel panel lies beneath a solar-powered motorized cover.
The key component of the SmartFarm is the copper-based hydrogel, which absorbs air moisture at night when the relative humidity is higher and releases it during the day when exposed to sunlight.
According to the team, the gel can absorb up to 300 times its weight in water at night. During the day, it releases that water at an hourly rate of 2.24 grams of water per gram of gel. On top of helping irrigate plants in areas with little precipitation, the device could also help deliver potable water where there’s a shortage since the released water meets WHO standards for drinking water.
The team is now exploring methods of scaling the technology up for large-scale applications, including multi-tiered, produce-growing urban rooftop setups.
Image source: National University of Singapore