There may not be much precipitation in many parts of the world, but there is a fair amount of water vapor in the air, particularly at night. A new experimental device sucks up that water vapor and uses it to irrigate edible plants.
Known as SmartFarm, the small-scale prototype was designed by a team from the National University of Singapore, led by assistant professor Tan Swee Ching. It is essentially a clear acrylic box with plants placed on its bottom, arranged on a bed of soil. Above, a small hydrogel panel is placed in contact with a special motorized solar-powered cover.
If I had to summarize in four words, I would say: water vapor greenhouse.
The key to everything? L'hydrogel
The copper-based hydrogel is very absorbent, it easily draws water vapor from the cool night air while the lid is open. A built-in timer closes it at dawn, with the sun's rays subsequently heating the hydrogel through the transparent cover material. The gel responds by gradually releasing its stored water in the form of water vapor, which condenses into liquid inside the cover.
When that cover opens progressively over the course of the day, condensation is eliminated along the inner edges of the box and drips into the walls, flowing down to spray the soil at the bottom of the device.
imagine this large scale water vapor greenhouse
According to scientists, the gel can absorb up to 300 times its weight in water at night. During the day, it releases the “converted” water vapor at an hourly rate of 2,24 grams of water per gram of gel. Imagine such a solution on a larger scale: SmartFarm would be able to free different crops from the weather, protecting and growing plants with simple atmospheric water.