Living in urban cities can sometimes create the illusion of sufficiency. This is particularly the case when it comes to resources like water, which is easily accessible at the turn of a tap.
However, water scarcity continues to be a pressing issue in various parts of the world. Recent data compiled by the United Nations underscores the widespread impact of water scarcity, which affects two to three billion people. This concern will likely be exacerbated over time by rising global water consumption rates, estimated to rise by 1% per year. This trend is projected to persist until at least 2050.
HurRain NanoTech, a company established in June 2020, aims to address concerns over water scarcity by turning air into water. As a pioneer in air-based water generation solutions, the company focuses on the development of air-based water generators that utilize moisture-absorbing materials.
According to Tengyu Lin, co-founder and CEO of HurRain NanoTech, water purification technologies are typically large-scale and centralized. However, nearly four billion people live outside urban areas all around the world, therefore necessitating the development of water purification solutions that are decentralized.
Traditional water purification methods, such as reverse osmosis and multi-stage distillation, are prone to issues like clogging in filtration systems, which can lead to high maintenance costs. These methods also consume a lot of energy.
HurRain NanoTech has developed nanoscale moisture-absorbing materials that utilize the difference in water vapor pressure between ambient air and the adsorbent’s surface to absorb and release moisture. These materials consist of moisture-absorbing salts and a high-polymer matrix material, which comprises layered porous structures within the high polymers. This expands the contact area between the adsorbent and air, which in turn enables the rapid transfer of water vapor.
These materials can complete multiple cycles each day under conditions as low as 15% relative humidity, producing 5.8 to 16.5 liters of water per kilogram in ten hours. In conditions such as Tokyo during the dry winter, relative humidity is generally below 30%, enabling the production of 13.3 to 25.8 liters of water per kilogram of air.
HurRain NanoTech’s offers air-based water collection equipment that extracts humidity from the air to produce clean water. This process is portable and unconstrained by water sources, making it feasible to operate even in desert-like environments, as long as the environmental conditions fall within the minimum operating range for temperature (15–38 degrees Celsius) and relative humidity (25–90%).
The company currently offers three lines of air-based water generators, categorized by capacity: consumer-level small-scale products, commercial medium-scale products, and large-scale industrial products, capable of generating between 10–2,000 liters of water per day.
HurRain NanoTech’s A10 model is the world’s first highly versatile air-based water generator product, with a capacity of 10 to 20 liters. This product can produce one liter of pure water per hour when humidity is below 30%. In terms of energy consumption, producing five kilograms of water requires only 1–2 kWh of energy.
For commercial clients, HurRain NanoTech provides air-based water generators with capacities from 50–500 liters, suitable for public facilities with greater demand for water, such as schools and government buildings.
The company also provides large-scale industrial projects with equipment capable of producing 5–10 tons of water per unit, coupled with standardized engineering services. These offerings primarily target overseas markets, notably the Middle East, in which the company is expanding its presence.
The Middle East, with a population of nearly 500 million people, is in urgent need of water solutions. Technology like HurRain NanoTech’s products are a potential solution, which can enable local governments to tackle the issue of water scarcity while allowing them to benefit from the affordability of electricity in the region.
According to Lin, seawater desalination projects are prevalent in the Middle East due to limited groundwater resources. While the bidding prices for these projects are low, high transport costs, such as extensive pipeline installation, tend to result in substantial water production expenses. This presents a significant market opportunity for products like HurRain NanoTech’s offerings.
To advance in this space, HurRain NanoTech recently signed a strategic cooperation agreement with a royal strategic partner in the UAE, securing a multimillion-dollar order. The collaboration will entail the use of the company’s water generators to support large-scale agricultural irrigation projects and address the country’s freshwater shortage.
HurRain NanoTech is also planning to venture into the development of new, functional materials for various applications.
For example, the company has developed adaptive thermal management clothing that can regulate temperature by leveraging the energy changes that occur during adsorption processes. Adsorption refers to the phenomenon in which molecules or atoms from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid adhere to the surface of a solid or liquid substance. It differs from absorption, where a substance enters the bulk of another substance.
In the near future, the company plans to expand its pipeline of products to serve scenarios like carbon gas adsorption to address global sustainability challenges.
This article was originally written by Lv Yaning for 36kr.com in Chinese language.