A novel water bottle named Fontus refills itself with just light and air, using solar power and physics to turn water vapor into liquid.
The unique bottle relies on the Peltier Effect, or thermoelectric cooling, in which a central unit uses electricity to make one side cool and the other side hot. As applied in the Fontus, as air flows past the cool side, the moisture in it condenses. The droplets collect on a hydrophobic surface that repels water, so they quickly drip into the bottle.
The Fontus claims to produce 500 ml of water per hour, though this rate requires hot (86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and wet (80-90% humidity) environments. “The water you get is clean, unless the air is really contaminated,” says Fontus designer Kristof Retezár, an industrial designer based in Vienna, Austria. In the future, the Fontus may come equipped with a carbon filter to further purify water, but currently the filter is only fine enough to remove things like bugs and dust.
Retezár’s goal is to mitigate water scarcity which, according to the UN, affects over 2 billion people in more than 40 countries. He notes that there are “around 13,000 km3 of mostly unexploited freshwater” in the Earth’s atmosphere, and “this project is an attempt to discover these resources.”
The concept of pulling water out of air is not new – Retezár himself acknowledges that many cultures in Asia and Central America have been practicing this for more than 2,000 years. A personal and portable device to do so, however, is unprecedented. It could, as the Fontus website suggests, “work as a mobile water well, for example, providing a child with water for the day while riding to school.”
The first model of the Fontus – the Ryde – is meant to be mounted on a bicycle. While the bike is in motion there is a continuous stream of fresh air from which to harvest moisture. Retezár selected bicycles as they are the most widespread means of transport in the world.
The other model is the Airo, which is geared towards hikers and has an active intake system to make up for the slower airstream.
Retezár hopes to bring the Fontus to market through a crowdfunding campaign later this year, and expects it to cost $100.