It might sound like a sophisticated magic trick or even a biblical story, but one Israeli company’s groundbreaking technology can create fresh drinking-quality water from nothing but plain air.
Established in 2009, Rishon Lezion-based Watergen is the ambitious company behind the development, tapping into atmospheric water to produce safe water wherever it is most needed.
The company, chaired by Israeli-Georgian businessman and philanthropist Mikhael Mirilashvili, has set its sights on expanding its renewable and energy-efficient clean water solution to the 2.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe water at home – and wherever else it might be needed.
In recent months, the system has been donated to authorities in Brazil, Vietnam and India. It has also assisted rescue and recovery efforts during the 2018 California wildfires and provided clean water to the residents of Texas and Florida in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“Our main target is to save and improve people’s lives all around the world,” Mirilashvili told The Jerusalem Post.
“We also aim to remove plastic from earth, to reduce the global carbon footprint, and of course make our planet cleaner and safer.”
How does the system work? First, Watergen’s built-in blower draws air from the atmosphere into the system’s atmospheric water generator. There, an internal filter cleanses the air by removing dust and dirt. Once clean, the air is directed through the GENius heat exchange and cooling process, and condensed into water.
The water is then filtered again to remove impurities and add minerals, resulting in fresh drinking-quality water. Once produced, the water is continuously circulated in a built-in reservoir to preserve its freshness.
The company’s large-scale generator can produce up to 5,000 liters of clean water every day, requiring no infrastructure other than a standard electricity supply.
Its medium-scale generator can produce up to 900 liters of clean water every day. The “Genny,” a plug-in home or office generator, can produce up to 27 liters per day.
“We are already saving thousands of lives and we are aiming to expand all over the world as soon as possible. Our greatest problem is that we cannot supply the growing demand,” said Mirilashvili.
Scaling up production is now one of the key objectives of the company, in addition to its three existing manufacturing facilities in Israel and the United States.
“Only this year, we are planning to build manufacturing facilities in Vietnam, India, China, Brazil, Hungary and Ukraine,” said Mirilashvili. “And another factory just to manufacture the GENius – the patented heat exchanger – which will be built in Israel.”
In January 2019, Watergen announced that it had partnered with the Red Cross to develop a new Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) for providing fresh water to even the most challenging disaster zones. Equipped with a water generator capable of producing 900 liters of water per day, the ERV can be at the scene of an emergency in little time.
“Our scientist developed the vehicle-integrated atmospheric water generator. It can be integrated in cars, buses, trains, yachts and ships. Now we are left just with airplanes, but we’ll manage this too,” said Mirilashvili.
"Recently, we had a visit from the Brazilian minister of science, former astronaut Marcos Pontes. He asked whether we can produce something to send into space. I hadn't considered it, but we will try and think of something."
Prior to Mirilashvili’s arrival at the company, its Israeli founders initially aimed to use the technology to reduce home appliance power consumption.
“They didn’t see the potential in generating water,” he said. “They already had collaborations with very large companies like Bosch and Siemens to implement the products inside their home appliances. There was money on the table. Personally, I can understand them, because tackling such a global issue without our strength and vision is very hard.”
While the technology is now firmly focused on tackling the global water shortage, the company has maintained the energy-efficient edge of its early-day designers and boasts the world’s most energy-efficient atmospheric water production system.
Whereas other commercially-available water generators rely on conventional air conditioning and dehumidifying technology to generate drinking water at rates ranging from 650 to 850 watt-hours per liter, Watergen produces safe drinking water at only 250Wh/L – or, in financial terms, a mere two to four cents per liter.
“My first priority is not how to make money but to help people, the planet and make kiddush hashem
(sanctify God’s name),” said Mirilashvili. “Regarding the revenues, only God decides who makes money and how much.”
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