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It's in the water!
March 12, 2014 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What would a great ad for a university of technology be? An ad, that itself, solves a problem through technology This is exactly what the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru and their ad agency Mayo DraftFCB have done - the first billboard in the world to make drinking water out of thin air and alleviate the lives of Peru's people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny (14 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I actually read the comments on this one, and am not informed enough to know if there's some genuinely interesting scientific speculation and analysis there, or just a whole pile o' woo and hooey.
posted by Shepherd at 7:55 AM on March 12


fog or dew collection is an ancient practice

The only innovation here is printing an advertisement on the collector.
posted by ook at 8:02 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Popular mechanics has more information, including general technical details. It sounds like a real, viable thing, not woo and hooey.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I'd love to see this on billboards around the world. Advertising can be an eyesore, but acceptance would be better if something good came out of it. We already get free email in exchange for page views, so why not free water?
posted by arcticseal at 8:28 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


pardon me for being science stupid, but isn't this basically just a big dehumidifier?

My BF makes a jug of water (not that I would drink it) out of thin (rather, thick, humid Houston Texas) air every day with his dehumidifier.
posted by subversiveasset at 8:29 AM on March 12


Well, it's no stillsuit but it is a wind trap.
posted by k5.user at 8:29 AM on March 12


pardon me for being science stupid, but isn't this basically just a big dehumidifier?

It is, but it has a filter on it. And it's solar powered.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:40 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


> The only innovation here is printing an advertisement on the collector.

Well, yes... and paying for the collector, and giving water for free to the people in the community, and doing a very good job of connecting the dots between what they're selling (engineering education) and the benefits (the ability to use technology to create these sorts of benefits for communities).
posted by evilmomlady at 8:42 AM on March 12 [16 favorites]


The only innovation here is printing an advertisement on the collector.

No wireless. Less storage than a stillsuit. Lame.
posted by The Bellman at 8:54 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Well, yes... and paying for the collector, and giving water for free to the people in the community, and doing a very good job of connecting the dots between what they're selling (engineering education) and the benefits (the ability to use technology to create these sorts of benefits for communities).

Which is still part of the advertising innovation. Or gimmick, if you prefer. Not that advertising is a bad thing.

But no, this isn't a particularly impressive technological breakthrough. 9500 liters in 3 months, powered by the grid. The Pop Mec article indicates how forbidding this kind of technology really is without significant investment capital, by example of a wind powered version in Abu Dhabi, which is significantly more productive.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:08 AM on March 12


Well, yes... and paying for the collector, and giving water for free to the people in the community

This collector cost $32,600 to install (not sure where the impossibly low $1200 figure came from), requires an unspecified amount of electricity to run ("five condensers"), produces ~100L/day, "UTEC has not yet announced whether the water will be available for free", and will exist for as long as UTEC keeps paying for the billboard space and the electricity.

The passive collectors the nonprofit charity FogQuest has been installing since 2000 require zero energy input, last a decade, produce twice as much water ("an average of 200L/day throughout the year") for a tiny fraction of the installation cost ("$1000-$1500") and no ongoing electricity or maintenance expenses. (They are essentially large screens of polypropylene . The UTEC billboard is essentially a gigantic air conditioner.)

This is a pure advertising stunt, not a benefit to the community. And yeah, it's pretty lame.
posted by ook at 9:23 AM on March 12 [6 favorites]


And as for the "connecting the dots" part: an important part of an engineering education should be appropriate use of technology, not use of technology for its own sake. If your expensive high-tech solution is inferior in every respect to the existing cheap low-tech solution -- which this is -- you are not being a good engineer.
posted by ook at 9:54 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


The passive collectors the nonprofit charity FogQuest has been installing since 2000 require zero energy input, last a decade, produce twice as much water ("an average of 200L/day throughout the year") for a tiny fraction of the installation cost ("$1000-$1500") and no ongoing electricity or maintenance expenses.

But they require fog, not merely humidity. From their FAQ:
Does fog collection work in humid air?

Our fog collection technology has many applications and can provide clean water in parts of the world where conventional sources are unavailable. But one must have fog and light winds, not merely high humidities or haze. Fog is composed of tiny liquid droplets. These are blown by the wind and impact on the fibers of a specially chosen mesh. Normally, visibilities should be less than 100 meters for successful fog collection.
Short answer: no.

This is not a good solution for Lima, where skies are generally cloud free, especially during daytime, and there are occasional coastal fogs on some mornings.

With that, I think a different solution would be needed in Lima. Perhaps it's possible to use a less technical solution, possibly the Australian "sail" material mentioned in the fog and dew collection link you posted upthread.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on March 12


It's not solar powered, it runs off grid electricity according to Popular Mechanics. That said, it could be solar powered. Wouldn't even need to be photovoltaic, actually – it could be totally passive. If you angled the billboard such that one side was generally in the sun and the other generally in the shade, and you painted the sun side black so that it would get quite a bit hotter than the shade side, you could use the thermal gradient to drive a condenser that operated purely on convection rather than forced pumping. There wouldn't even have to be any moving parts.

It would almost certainly make less water than the actively-powered version, but on the other hand it would be a really elegant engineering solution and would take advantage of the billboard's shape since a big flat object up in the air is pretty much the ideal form factor for such a passive water condenser.
posted by Scientist at 12:26 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


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