Published on November 14th, 2011 | by Charis Michelsen2
Beetles + Solar Panels & a Wind Turbine = Irrigation (Video)
November 14th, 2011 by Charis Michelsen
Irrigation has been part of agriculture for centuries. From digging trenches to the river to setting up what amounts to giant sprinklers across a field, many techniques have been explored. One of the greenest is a new solar and wind power assisted device developed by an Australian university student, which extracts moisture from the air.
Edward Linnacre calls his idea the Airdrop. While he isn’t the first to try and get water from thin air (so to speak), his goal was to make it cost-effective, robust, and relatively low-tech.
How It Works
The Airdrop has a turbine intake, which pulls the air underground and then pushes it through a series of copper pipes. The air is cooled to the temperature of the soil, which leads to condensation. The resulting water is gathered and stored in a tank until it can be delivered directly to the roots of the plants needing irrigation.
If it’s windy enough, the turbine doesn’t need another energy source. On those hot, still, awful days with no sign of moving air, solar panels charge a small battery which then powers the turbine and the irrigation pump (points for not one but two types of green energy!).
The Airdrop is even theoretically easy to manage – an LCD screen is included to display information such as tank water levels, battery life, and overall system health.
Beetles Did It First (Sort Of)
Edward has gone on the record as saying that his inspiration was the Namib beetle. The little bug collects water droplets during early morning fog. Using that image as a springboard, Edward made a very small-scale prototype, which successfully managed to collect about a quart of water a day.
Another source of inspiration for Edward was a relatively unknown side effect of drought in Australian rural communities, namely suicide. Farmers unable to cope with the primary effects of drought (nothing grows) may take their own lives in despair.
The James Dyson Award and Beyond
Edward has already won the James Dyson Award, which runs in 18 countries and aims to inspire students to “design something that solves a problem.” The money from the award will go to further development of the Airdrop.
Of course, with such a neat idea, Edward may not have to rely on the prize money. According to his university, commercial developers in the U.S., Asia, and the Middle East have already contacted him about his device.