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GE Researchers Awarded $14 Million to lead the revolutionary AIR2WATER Project

AIR2WATER Project
AIR2WATER Project
Above: Test samples of 3D printed heat exchangers in the Additive Mfg. Lab at GE Research/Image Source: UC Berkeley

General Electric Company (GE) revealed that a multidisciplinary team of researchers from GE Research, its technology development arm, has been awarded a four-year $14.3 million project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Atmospheric Water Extraction (AWE) program, to lead the revolutionary AIR2WATER project that could dramatically simplify the transport of potable water to troops in the field and address water scarcity around the world in a powerful new way.  AIR2WATER is an abbreviation for Additively Manufactured, Integrated Reservoir To Extract Water using Adsorbents and Thermally-Enhanced Recovery.

Under the project, GE researchers, together with top scientists and engineers from the University of California at Berkeley, University of Chicago, and University of South Alabama will develop and design a highly compact, portable device that literally can produce clean, safe water out of thin air. This innovative device, light enough to be lifted by just four people, will utilize transformational new material innovations, thermal processes and additive manufacturing (3D printed designs) to produce enough daily water for 150 troops.

David Moore, the Principal Investigator and Technology Manager for Material Physics and Chemistry at GE Research, says the development and deployment of such a device would transform military transport operations involving water, stating, “Today, the logistics and costs involved with transporting water are staggering and in dangerous war zone areas, result in casualties.  By creating a highly portable, compact device that efficiently extracts water from the atmosphere, we can save lives and ease the logistical and financial burden for our armed forces.”

GE Research AIR2WATER Project

AIR2WATER Project
Above: Pictured is water that formed as air passed over innovative metal-organic framework sorbent materials developed by researchers at UC Berkeley/Image Source: UC Berkeley

The AIR2WATER device that GE is building will be a compact, light-weight prototype device that is light enough to be carried by soldiers for use at bases. The key technologies being used to produce potable water are sorbent materials to absorb the air and a unique 3D-enabled design of an additively-manufactured heat exchanger that effectively draws in heat over the sorbent materials to release the water.

The GE Research team will be collaborating with top chemists and chemical engineers from UC Berkeley and University of South Alabama, and leading AI experts at the University of Chicago.  The team from UC Berkeley, led by renowned Professor of Chemistry, Omar Yaghi, will lead the development of sorbent materials.  To help predict and inform the selection of the right materials for the device, the University of South Alabama, led by Prof. Grant Glover, will model the mass transfer and measure the adsorption kinetics, and AI experts from the University of Chicago, spearheaded by Prof. Laura Gagliardi, will utilize AI-guided molecular screening tools. 

GE researchers will support with material, modelling and AI developments and lead the overall system integration, including the 3D design of and sorbent integration into the additively-manufactured heat exchanger. GE engineers will draw from decades of experience with the development and design of heat exchangers for aerospace applications and power generation turbines to help in successful completion of the AIR2WATER project.


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