Scientists in Saudi Arabia, using a unique kind of hydrogel, have created a solar-driven system that has successfully grown spinach using water extracted from the air while also producing electricity.
Also Read: India Added Record-Breaking 10-Gigawatt Solar Energy Capacity In 2021
The proof of concept system dubbed WEC2P, is made of a solar photovoltaic panel placed on top of a layer of hydrogel that is placed on top of a large metal box to condense and collect water.
Researchers had developed the hydrogel in prior research that is capable of absorbing water vapour from ambient air, with the water content being released when heated.
Researchers used the waste heat from solar panels when generating electricity to drive absorbed water out of the hydrogel. The metal box below collects the vapour and condenses the gas into water.
The hydrogel increases the efficiency of solar photovoltaic panels by as much as 9 percent by absorbing the heat and lowering the panels’ temperature.
To take things to the next level, the team conducted a plant-growing test by using WEC2P in Saudi Arabia for two weeks in June, when the weather was hot. They used the water only collected from the air to irrigate 60 water spinach seeds planted in a plastic plant-growing box.
Throughout the experiment, the solar panel which was as large as a student’s desk generated a total of 1,519 watt-hours of electricity and 57 out of 60 of the water spinach seeds sprouted and grew normally to 18 centimetres. In total, around 2 litres of water were condensed from the hydrogel over the two-week period.
Also Read: IIT Delhi Built Solar Panels That Track Sun’s Movement To Generate More Electricity
Senior author Peng Wang, a professor of environmental science and engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology explains, “Our goal is to create an integrated system of clean energy, water, and food production, especially the water-creation part in our design, which sets us apart from current agro photovoltaics.”
Wang concluded stating, “Making sure everyone on Earth has access to clean water and affordable clean energy is part of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. I hope our design can be a decentralised power and water system to light homes and water crops.”
Keep reading Indiatimes.com for the latest science and technology news.