Environment

Device that harvests water from thin air wins the James Dyson Award

Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept
Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept
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The Airdrop irrigation concept is a low-tech design that uses the simple process of condensation to harvest water from the air (image: James Dyson Award)
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The Airdrop irrigation concept is a low-tech design that uses the simple process of condensation to harvest water from the air (image: James Dyson Award)
Utilizing a turbine intake system, air is channeled underground through a network of piping that quickly cools the air to soil temperature (image: James Dyson Award)
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Utilizing a turbine intake system, air is channeled underground through a network of piping that quickly cools the air to soil temperature (image: James Dyson Award)
Linacre is a Swinburne University of Technology design graduate (image: James Dyson Award)
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Linacre is a Swinburne University of Technology design graduate (image: James Dyson Award)
Airdrop is a new sub-surface irrigation system (image: James Dyson Award)
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Airdrop is a new sub-surface irrigation system (image: James Dyson Award)
The collected water is stored in an underground tank, ready to be pumped via sub-surface drip irrigation hosing (image: James Dyson Award)
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The collected water is stored in an underground tank, ready to be pumped via sub-surface drip irrigation hosing (image: James Dyson Award)
The low-tech solution is perfect for rural farmers
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The low-tech solution is perfect for rural farmers
Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept
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Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept
The Airdrop design system broken down (image: James Dyson Award)
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The Airdrop design system broken down (image: James Dyson Award)
Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept
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Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award for his Airdrop irrigation concept

Young Melbourne-based inventor Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award, making it the second year in a row where the prestigious prize has gone to an Aussie. Linacre stole this year's competition with his Airdrop irrigation concept that collects water from thin air. The Swinburne University of Technology design graduate was driven to transform an ancient cooling technique into a new sub-surface irrigation system, following the enduring Australian drought that saw high levels of farmer suicide along Australia's Murray- Darling Basin.

The Airdrop irrigation concept is a low-tech design that uses the simple process of condensation to harvest water from the air. Utilizing a turbine intake system, air is channeled underground through a network of piping that quickly cools the air to soil temperature. This process creates an environment of 100-percent humidity, from which water is then harvested. The collected water is stored in an underground tank, ready to be pumped out via sub-surface drip irrigation hosing. The Airdrop design also features an LCD screen displaying water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and system health.

Utilizing a turbine intake system, air is channeled underground through a network of piping that quickly cools the air to soil temperature (image: James Dyson Award)
Utilizing a turbine intake system, air is channeled underground through a network of piping that quickly cools the air to soil temperature (image: James Dyson Award)

"The one that I made in the backyard at mum's house was creating about a liter of water a day," Linacre told Gizmag. Although the backyard trial was successful on a small scale, Linacre did prove that it could be implemented on a large agricultural scale. "The low-tech solution is perfect for rural farmers," explained Linacre. "[It's] something they can install, something they can maintain ... taking water out of the air and irrigating their crops."

The James Dyson Award is an international competition that attracts designs and inventions from young creators all over the world. As the winner, Linacre will receive GBP10,000 (US$14,000), with a further GBP10,000 (US$14,000) going to Swinburne's Faculty of Design.

Edward described the Airdrop system to Gizmag at the Australian Design Awards, in a video that we shot earlier this year.

Dyson Awards: Edward Linnacre's AirDrop Irrigation

22 comments
David Couch
Great emphasis on the lo-tech easily maintained and repaired solution. Unlike this popularized concept: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/GX-8_water_vaporator
Cymon Curcumin
There have been other products, including some on the market for using solar power to run refrigeration systems to condense water from air. The two factors of efficiency--amount of water produced--vs. price and simplicity of maintenance mean there could be several niches for water harvesters depending on the economy and investment climate of the community in question. I hope this method is as promising as he feels it is. It is worth bearing in mind that when a new and improved solar cell is developed, it should not only be judged on whether it will be economical for solar cell farms attached to the grid but also on whether it can provide more power at less cost to off-grid systems and devices like these.
Cymon Curcumin
It would also be usful to pair this with a subsurface moisture barrier beneath the irrigation since deserts often lose more water downwards that through evaporation.
ivan4
I can see this working in hot humid conditions assuming the ground temperature doesn\'t rise too high but what about hot dry conditions?
Wombat56
It would only work until the surrounding soil heated up, and the vapour ceased to condense. Places like the New York and London underground railways were originally cool, but they have become hot and sweltering as the years pass, as energy is pumped in from bodies and trains. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-19451133-tube-is-hotter-than-miami.do I imagine the efficiency of the Airdrop would quickly fall with use.
Carlos Grados
What an excellent idea! This reminds me of the water harvesters in Star Wars that the young Luke Skywalker had to tend for his family.
Peter Dawson
This has been done already a long time ago by uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in a galaxy far far way.
Max Orbit
How much copper or aluminum will be needed per acre for the heat exchangers?
Slowburn
Am I the only one that sees that removing water from the air increases the area of the rain shadow.
Mark Penver
lets just hope he changes from copper...because thats one expensive solution with coppers prices. theres a reason why wires are stolen from railway lines....
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