Can we harvest water from landscapes that are famous for their arid climate? Evelyn Wang and Omar Yaghi, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California, Berkeley respectively, created a small-scale water collecting prototype to find out. Using an absorbent metal-organic framework or MOF powder, they’ve sucked water molecules out of Arizona’s desert air. This Joe’s Big Idea explains.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed… But it’s just a prototype. It only used a fraction of an ounce of the MOF powder. “So the amount of water that we’ve shown is also pretty small,” says Wang.

According to Wang’s calculations, a full-sized system using about 2 pounds of MOF powder could deliver close to three quarts of water per day.

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