Water Capture from Air

The Groningen-based company Solaq has devised an ingenious solution for converting water vapor from the air into drinking water in a sustainable manner. The system can be deployed virtually anywhere in the world, even in desert regions.

About five years ago, Reuben Moore, Evert van Voorthuysen, and Peter Solleveld began developing the system. Now, Solaq’s Air-to-Water system can be practically applied worldwide without generating any waste products. It requires minimal maintenance and does not rely on any existing infrastructure, as it is linked to thermal solar collectors. “The system consists of two stacked shipping containers and combines two processes,” explains Moore. “A large amount of air is drawn into the container and enters the absorber, where water is extracted from the air. This water ends up in a hygroscopic fluid. The second part is the distillator,” Moore continues. “The water is then removed from the hygroscopic fluid and converted into drinking water through a thermal distillation process. So, these are two very different components. And the combination with our self-developed absorber technology makes us unique and allows us to produce drinking water in a very cost-effective way.”

Solaq initially began by testing the individual components. One of those components was tested at NHL Stenden University in Leeuwarden, where Brazilian professor Luewton Agostinho is also involved in water technology. “He was also looking on behalf of the Brazilian government to see if interesting water technologies were being developed in Europe or the Netherlands. And what we were working on happened to fit perfectly,” Moore explains. The first prototype was shipped to Brazil for the pilot project in the summer of 2022. “Everything went exactly as we predicted. It’s great, but it also gave us the feeling that we could have just stayed in the Netherlands,” Moore jokes.

Solaq recently received funding from NEW-ttt. “For Solaq, the NEW fund was really a huge relief,” says Moore. “As a startup, we were right before the so-called Valley of Death, where you are just too small for commercial investors, so this came at a perfect time for us. With the financing, Solaq aims to build and test a pilot version of a standard unit in the Netherlands over the next year. “We have proven with the pilot in Brazil that the technology works, so now it’s time to test what will ultimately become the commercial system. This system should be able to produce up to 6,000 liters of water per day in a sustainable manner, depending on local weather conditions. If everything goes according to plan next year, we can start selling the first systems in Brazil in 2025. This financing brings us almost to where we want to go, but we probably want to explore opportunities for new investments in about a year.”

“What we are ultimately trying to do is provide people with clean and safe drinking water in areas where it is not readily available. And we are extremely motivated to make a real difference. And that is also the challenge of social entrepreneurship. We are idealistic, but at the same time, we also have to focus on a good business model so that we can continue to make a difference.”

This article is a rewritten piece from Van lucht naar drinkwater. Check for more detailed information (Dutch only).