This salty gel could harvest water from desert air
Jun 15, 2023

Congratulations to Gustav Graeber, Carlos Díaz-Marin, Leon Gaugler, Yang Zhong, Bachir El Fil, and Xinyue Liu for their recent work on Extreme Water Uptake of Hygroscopic Hydrogels through Maximized Swelling-Induced Salt Loading, which was featured on MIT News! We have synthesized a superabsorbent material that can soak up a record amount of moisture from the air, even in desert-like conditions. As the material absorbs water vapor, it can swell to make room for more moisture. Even in very dry conditions, with 30 percent relative humidity, the material can pull vapor from the air and hold in the moisture without leaking. The water could then be heated and condensed, then collected as ultrapure water. The transparent, rubbery material is made from hydrogel, a naturally absorbent material that is also used in disposable diapers. The team enhanced the hydrogel’s absorbency by infusing it with lithium chloride — a type of salt that is known to be a powerful desiccant. The researchers found they could infuse the hydrogel with more salt than was possible in previous studies. As a result, they observed that the salt-loaded gel absorbed and retained an unprecedented amount of moisture, across a range of humidity levels, including very dry conditions that have limited other material designs. 

Read more on MIT News and read the paper here.