For those facing water shortages, there is much to be thankful for when it comes to the inventive spirit. Thanks to young Australian inventor Edward Linacre, there may one day be no such thing as a water shortage for Australian farmers.
He recently won the £10,000 international James Dyson Award for a “low-tech” device – the Airdrop – that can draw water from the air, besting the work of 500 other inventors.
Linacre, a graduate of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, says he wanted to solve the drought problem afflicting farmers in parts of Australia suffering from drought conditions. His solution, Airdrop, can harvest 11.5 milliliters of water for every cubic meter of air in the driest deserts such as the Negev in Israel, which has an average relative air humidity of 64 percent. A small-scale prototype Linacre installed at his parents’ house created about a liter of water a day. Linacre will use his prize money for further testing on increasing the yield.
As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, instead of using complex, energy-intensive methods such as desalination, Airdrop’s source of water is abundant – the air – and so it can be used anywhere in the world.
Linacre’s Airdrop delivers water to the roots of crops in dry areas by pushing air through a network of underground pipes, cooling it down to the point where water condenses. The water can then be pumped to the roots of plants using drip irrigation methods.
This video interview, posted by gizmag, helps explain the invention and the sound reasoning behind it. Linacre say he was inspired by the Namib beetle, which survives in landscapes that get just half an inch of rain per year by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back. Similarly, the desert rhubarb can harvest 16 times the amount of water than other plants in its region by using deep water channeling cavities in its leaves.
James Dyson, whose charity sponsors the award, said that the device is a low-tech solution that could be installed and maintained by the farmers themselves; it powers itself using solar panels. Dyson offered this insight into the clever invention:
“Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armory. We chose Edward’s project because it was a very good and original solution to what has become a real problem.”
In addition to Linacre’s cash prize, a further £10,000 has been awarded to Swinburne University. Linacre said without the university’s help he would never have got his idea off the ground.
The James Dyson Award is run by the James Dyson Foundation and each year students of product design, industrial design or design engineering from around the world are invited to enter.Image: James Dyson Awards