Machine Makes Water From Air
AquaVentus is designed for disaster. The cost: $2,250.
The AquaVentus unit can suck up to 20 gallons of water from the humidity outside. It will go on sale next year for $2,250.
The St. Petersburg company makes a compact refrigeration unit that produces 20 gallons of clean, drinkable water a day by wringing the humidity out of air. The unit is the size of a large cooler and can be powered by electricity, a generator or solar power.
For now, the company is focusing on selling in the Southeast U.S., the Caribbean and the South Pacific. But the mini-waterworks will work in areas where the relative humidity is as low as 40%, including coastal California and just about anywhere east of the Mississippi River, says James Hill, founder of AquaVentus.
AquaVentus also sees disaster preparedness organizations as potential customers. During natural disasters, the need for clean water is often more important than the need for power. Orders to boil water were issued in much of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for example. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Hurricane Katrina affected more than 1,220 water utility systems.
Marine Desalination Systems in St. Petersburg — which had a licensing agreement with AquaVentus — developed the air-to-water technology with help from a $1.87-million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research after Sept. 11. The research group is working on two additional projects that will be used for a five- to 10-gallon version and a 100-gallon version.
AquaVentus will start selling its 20-gallon unit next year for $2,250. It hopes to be able to sell the 10-gallon unit for less than $1,000. The company plans to sell its units through a network of generator dealers. It projects sales of a little less than $1 million in 2009 and $5.7 million in 2010. Hill is looking for $2.5 million in investment capital to ramp up manufacturing, sales and marketing and to beef up the management team.
While the AquaVentus is designed to be used outdoors, a number of companies, including Fort Lauderdale-based WaterPure International, are marketing “atmospheric water generators” for use indoors. Units are plugged into an ordinary electrical outlet. They look similar to soft-drink vending machines. A reservoir holds approximately four to eight gallons of water.