Changing the Future: Moisture Vaporators

The technology of science fiction is often flashy and impressive, but more mundane seeming inventions that make up the background of movie sets are equally likely to change the real world. The perfect example of this is the moisture vaporator, a device that is mentioned in passing in the original Star Wars film, but not described in detail. These iconic towers, which can be seen throughout the first part of the movie, are slender metal towers that condense water from the atmosphere. In the Star Wars universe, these valuable machines provide much of the water needed for life on desert planets like Tatooine.

Although simple devices like these are quickly lost in the flurry of space battles and lightsaber fights, the promise of drawing drinkable water out of the air provides a great deal of promise in the real world. A large percentage of the world’s population live in areas where access to clean drinking water is far from assured, and many people predict the worldwide need for water will only continue to grow as a point of contention between nations. Water is needed for so much more than drinking though, and the ability to provide the people of the world with much needed water would improve sanitation, industry and possibly even help to fight increasing desertification. The ability to draw water out of the air and provide it to directly where it is needed would change many lives across the Earth for the better.

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Fortunately, this technology is already being realized. The compact Fontus device, created by Kristof Retezar, is small enough to fit on a bicycle and powerful enough to harvest half a litre of water an hour under ideal conditions. The device uses a system of cooled condensers and filters to extract and purify the water, and has a built in solar cell that provides all of its energy needs. The extracted pours down into a bottle, which can be quickly detached when the rider wants a drink. This handy system is an easy way to quench your thirst while on a ride, but it also has far greater potential. Increasing the scope of this simple system could go a long way to helping people in developing countries to have access to the resources they need to survive.

The Fontus, and the moisture vaporators that may have inspired it, show technology does not have to be flashy or glamorous in order to help people. By focusing on seeing and fulfilling real world needs, the world can be made a much better place through invention and innovation.