A professor & student team at Nottingham Trent University found a DIY way to turn old appliances into potentially life-saving machines.
Last year while visiting a recycling center in the United Kingdom, Dr. Amin Al-Habaibeh, a reader in Advanced Design and Manufacturing Technologies at Nottingham Trent University, found that many of the refrigerators, freezers, and old computer systems that had been thrown away were still in good condition. While this struck him as wasteful, it wasn’t until he had returned home and was enjoying a glass of lemonade in his garden that he had a moment of realization. By linking two observations, the condition of those recycled objects and the condensation of water on the outside of his glass, he was inspired to draw drinkable water out of thin air.
PSFK spoke with Al-Habaibeh about the design and creation of the machine:
The idea of generating water from air is not totally new, but to utilize existing old domestic appliances to achieve this with a simple DIY modification is novel. I thought this was a good opportunity to integrate this research work with our Product Design teaching and design projects at Nottingham Trent University. So I gave this research project to Joe Wild, one of our product design undergraduates, to take it forward and develop a prototype under my supervision, and Joe has done a great job.
Old refrigerators were the perfect vehicle for his idea because creating condensation requires you to cool the air. Al-Habaibeh elaborates:
The device is based on a simple modification to a normal fridge with simple coper pipes and a circulation fan (we used a computer fan in this case). The design is mainly based on reusing old components and appliances. The main cost will be associated with the time needed for modification and the cost of any renewable energy components to power the fridge.
The modified fridges will be able to pull water from the surrounding air of a similar quality that would be produced by distillation. However it would be free of dissolved minerals, which are essential to the human body. Minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride, Sodium, and Potassium could be added as needed throughout the process. Regarding the objective of the project, Dr. Al-Habaibeh explains:
Our final aim is to provide instructions of how people can make such a machine, including the procedure and materials needed, over the internet so that people and communities around the world can build their own water generation systems. By providing the concept, not only are we showing how simple design ideas can improve people’s lives, we’re also raising awareness of the issues of sustainability.