According to the World Wildlife Fund, over 1.1 billion people do not have access to water and approximately 2.7 billion experience instances of water scarcity.  As part of the AIR2WATER project, GE Research will play its part in addressing this issue.

image: GE Research. Caption: Pictured is water that formed as air passed over innovative metal-organic framework sorbent materials developed by researchers at UC Berkeley. These materials will be integrated into GE’s new portable air-to-water device.

Selected by DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the technology development arm for the General Electric Company (GE) has been granted $14.3 million to achieve the four-year ambitious project.

AIR2WATER stands for Additively Manufactured, Integrated Reservoir To Extract Water using Adsorbents and Thermally-Enhanced Recovery. The project is part of the Atmospheric Water Extraction (AWE) program, a program that aims to develop scalable sorbent materials that can rapidly extract water from ambient air and leverage advanced modeling, innovative engineering, and additive manufacturing methods to achieve a substantial reduction in the size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements compared to current atmospheric water generation technologies.

In other terms, for the multidisciplinary team at GE Research, this mean developing new distributed systems to reduce risks and costs associated with delivering potable water to troops in the field and for humanitarian missions.

Indeed, the transport of clean, safe water today can involve air and ground vehicle transport over long distances and complex terrain.  This contributes to logistics burden of one third of the Department of Defense budget.  Furthermore, 10-12% of USMC causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to the moving of fuel and water, according to the AEPI Report.

David Moore, the Principal Investigator and Technology Manager for Material Physics and Chemistry at GE Research, says the development and deployment of such a device would transform military transport operations involving water, stating, “Today, the logistics and costs involved with transporting water are staggering and in dangerous war zone areas, result in casualties.  By creating a highly portable, compact device that efficiently extracts water from the atmosphere, we can save lives and ease the logistical and financial burden for our armed forces.”

Currently, GE Research is developing a prototype that would drastically reduce or potentially eliminate the need for the distribution of water by providing a ready source of clean water directly where troops are stationed.

Caption: Test samples of different additively manufactured heat exchangers printed in the Additive Manufacturing Lab at GE Research in Niskayuna. GE researcher will be designing and integrating a 3D-printed heat exchanger that will create the optimal thermal properties for the air as it moves over the sorbent materials to produce water.

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