Zero Mass Water makes solar panel arrays that pull clean drinking water from the air.The $4,500 arrays just launched in the United States.Zero Mass arrays could come in handy in areas where water sources are far away or scarce. Some homeowners have purchased arrays as an alternative to plastic water bottles.Around the world, approximately 2.1 billion people do not have immediate access to clean drinking water. A sustainable water startup called Zero Mass aims to make clean water easily accessible to more people around the world. In 2015, it launched its first product, Source — a solar panel array that harvests and filters water from vapor in the air — in eight countries, including Chile, Jordan, and Peru.Source is now available in the United States, CEO Cody Friesen, a material scientist and MIT alum, told Business Insider.Each panel costs $2,000 (plus a $500 installation fee) and generates an average of two to five liters of water daily, depending on humidity and sunlight. Source can work anywhere, and many arrays are deployed in deserts where water is scarce, Friesen said.Comprised of proprietary materials, the panels use sunlight to produce heat, which allows them to collect water vapor from the air. Friesen wouldn’t disclose what the materials are, but said they have an ideal binding energy for humidity.
It would be an understatement to say that the company’s executives were surprised when all of France’s major media showed up at the Colas trade show booth in mid-October.“It was incredible,” said Christophe Lienard, Colas’ Innovation Group Director. “Our work in road construction and maintenance doesn’t normally get that sort of attention.”The media were there because Colas debuted the world’s first road surface that generates solar electricity, called Wattway. The panels, which are only a few millimeters thick, can be installed on top of any road surface without any additional civil engineering work, withstand all types of vehicle traffic, and every 20 square meters should generate enough energy to power a home.Five years ago, the project was nothing more than an after-hours experiment in an engineer’s garage.“He had a piece of road surface, photovoltaic modules, and some weights,” Lienard explained. “We knew it had to be possible, but we didn’t know how.”
There’s a lot to see at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in a rehabbed old building in Boston. Fraunhofer is a big German research and development non-profit organization, with a couple of branches in the USA. They have been working with solar power for years, and last year held the record for making the world’s most efficient solar cell. Now they are looking to reinvent the way solar panels are installed.Christian Hoepfner, the director of the center, explains that much of the cost of installing photovoltaics is in the frame they are mounted on, and in the connections, the wiring of it all together. This needs about 26 hours of a qualified electrician and a lot of work by the roofer, and presently totals about $ 4.90 per watt installed.