Researchers Grow Food Using Solar Panels Only

Researchers in Saudi Arabia have built a solar-powered system that has successfully grown spinach using water from the atmosphere using a special hydrogel while also producing electricity.

In a recent copy of the Cell Reports Physical Science Journal, a proof-of-concept design describes a sustainable strategy to improve food and water security in dry-climate areas.

Peng Wang, co-author, and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) writes:

A fraction of the world’s population still does not have access to clean water or green power, and many of them live in rural areas with arid or semi-arid climates. Our design makes water out of the air using clean energy that would’ve been wasted and is suitable for decentralized, small-scale farms in remote places like deserts and oceanic islands.

The system dubbed WEC2P makes use of a photovoltaic panel placed on a layer of hydrogel, inside a large metallic box to collect and condense water.

The hydrogel was created by the researchers previously that can easily absorb water and when heated releases the water content.

The team began their testing in June, under hot weather conditions. Only water collected during the process was used to water 60 spinach seeds. In the end, the team was able to condense 2 liters of water.

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Wang added:

Our goal is to create an integrated system of clean energy, water, and food production, especially the water-creation part in our design, which sets us apart from the current agrophotovoltaics … Making sure everyone on Earth has access to clean water and affordable clean energy is part of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. I hope our design can be a decentralized power and water system to light homes and water crops.

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