Ever imagined there would come a day when a machine generated water from thin air? Meet AWA Modula, a piece of high tech developed by German company Greentec Aqua, which has a patented process to turn air into potable water. It runs on the principle that as air contains humidity, the water can be extracted from it and used for human consumption.
The machine was displayed for public view at Electronic City in Bengaluru recently.
The air is run through an air-conditioning unit to take it to dew point. The water that comes out of this process is filtered and “re-mineralised” so that it’s safe for human consumption. The company’s managing director Martin Kolodziejczyk says that the machine is made of galvanised steel and food grade materials, which makes it different from your regular, run-of-the-mill AC reject water. Depending on the variant, you can get anywhere from 250 litres up to 10,000 litres per day from the machine. There’s also a variant that generates ultra-pure, distilled water which doesn’t have any minerals added to it, for use in industrial settings.
It’s not a new idea – people have been using water condensation technology for millennia. The first known use of the technology was in Egypt, during the time of the pharaohs. A low-tech version of this is also in use in some parts of China, to provide drinking water in rural areas where there’s low connectivity and water scarcity.
Jonathan Wright and David Richards from the US were the first to build it in the form of a machine in 2006, but the technology didn’t catch on at that time. However, now that there’s widespread water scarcity and urgent need for clean drinking water, this comes as an alternative. Greentec Aqua began marketing to India this year, after seeing interest in other developed nations like the US, Australia and UAE.
However, AWA Modula comes at a steep cost. The starting price for the smallest 250 liters per day model is € 30,000, about Rs 23.77 lakh in today’s market. The model with 10,000 litres capacity and the highest specs costs € 700,000. There are also running costs. The 250-litre machine uses 3kW per hour, which can go up to 106 kW per day, while the 10,000-litre machine guzzles up to 162 kW per day.
Martin says that some big industrial players in India have already expressed interest in the technology. But experts are sceptical about how sustainable or scalable the technology is.
“If the machine costs close to Rs 24 lakhs, then who is going to buy it? Industries might be interested, but we must be realistic,” says Priyanka Jamwal, an ATREE fellow who is an expert in water management. “There needs to be a cost-benefit that will make industries consider alternatives to ground water. Groundwater is inexpensive. If the industry is sitting on a place with access to groundwater, all they have to pay for is the electricity to pump it up,” she points out.
Conservationist Joseph Hoover says, “How much do you spend on the initial cost and running cost? It’s too much. Technology should be accessible to all. Should only industries have clean water?”
Yaduveer Chamaraja Wadiyar, the Maharaja of Mysore, also happened to be at the venue for another engagement, and tried the water along with other locals.
If you’re interested in trying a sip of water that has been generated from air, the machine will be on display at the Bengaluru Tech Summit, Palace Grounds from November 18-20.