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CES 2018: Zero Mass Wants to Get Water Off the Grid and Onto Your Roof

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The hydropanel. It looks a bit like a solar panel. Indeed, it is part solar— the side sections create heat using solar thermal technology (see photo, above); the center two sections of each panel are full of solar cells So it does generate a little electricity, enough to operate its fans, pump, and electronics. But that’s not why you’d want it on your roof. Its purpose is to generate water—pure, safe, drinking water—from the air. Its creators say it works in almost any environment, be that the desert or the rain forest.

Why water? Zero Mass Water founder and Arizona State University associate professor Cody Friesen says that the water system today faces three challenges: a lack of transparency (we usually don’t know where it comes from or what is in the pipes along its journey), broken infrastructure (and that’s not just a problem in the developing world), and inconvenience (relying on bottled water for drinking).

Friesen, speaking on a panel at CES this week in Las Vegas, had been thinking about the evolution of solar energy and wireless communications, and decided to try to decentralize water in a similar way.

“Today, everybody has a supercomputer in your pocket that can communicate wirelessly,” he says, “so if you built a town now, you’d never put in wires. Solar panels, same thing. Our technology enables a similar leapfrog of infrastructure for water.”