Solar panels have turned the desert air into a source of water for plants
The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) reported a serious success in the development of agrophotovoltaic energy. It implies the creation of such installations for a desert area that will simultaneously generate energy and collect water for watering plants. The technology was named WEC2P and successfully passed the first tests.
WEC2P is based on a special hydrogel that effectively absorbs water vapor, and gives it away when heated. It is able to accumulate moisture from the desert air, and in combination with a solar panel turns into an efficient water generator. At night, the hydrogel absorbs moisture, and when the panel heats up during operation during the day, it acts as a cooling system for it, taking away part of the thermal energy. At the same time, it heats itself and evaporates moisture – it remains only to collect condensate.
Cooling the solar panel with hydrogel allowed to increase its efficiency by 9%. In the experiment, the installation with an area of 1 sq.m. in two weeks produced 1,519 Wh of energy and generated 2 liters of water. The collected water was immediately fed into a box with spinach seedlings. Of the 60 planted seeds, 57 sprouted and by the end of the experiment some had grown up to 18 cm tall.
The experiment was carried out in June, during the period of the greatest heat, its results were recognized as successful. Now Arab scientists are developing a new version of the hydrogel that can absorb even more moisture, and in parallel they are preparing a large-scale experiment lasting a year. It is difficult to overestimate the possibility of obtaining both water and electricity in the desert.