Meet Hydro Harvest

Dec 19 2017


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The Hydro Harvest Operation Team is a group of chemical engineers participating in The Water Abundance XPRIZE powered by Tata Group and Australian Aid, led by Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and including: Associate Professor Elham Doroodchi, Dr. Andrew Maddocks, Dr. Priscilla Tremain, and Dr. Cheng Zhou. While our team members are now based in Australia where access to clean drinking water is not a daily concern, we have personal and family connections to regions of the world including the Middle East, China, and the Pacific where access to clean water is or has been an issue.

As passionate engineers working as part of a broader team of researchers at the Priority Research Centre for Frontier Energy Technologies and Utilisation to develop renewable and low emissions technologies, we are excited to be part of the competition and use our knowledge and skills to develop a solution that will benefit many communities, including those where we have a personal connection.

About the Hydro Harvest Operation Team

Our team has a diverse background: Behdad and Elham grew up in Iran before moving to Australia to continue their education, receiving Ph.D.s from Australian universities before taking up academic positions at The University of Newcastle. Together they make a dynamic team, and are co-inventors of GRANEX, an emission-free engine that turns heat from low-grade sources such as geothermal and industrial waste heat into electricity. GRANEX has been in commercial operations for several years.

Andrew was born and raised in Newcastle and attended the University of Newcastle where he was a student of Behdad’s. Following a Ph.D. at the University of Sydney and thirteen years in industry advising companies and governments on greenhouse gas emissions, Andrew returned to the University of Newcastle as a senior member of Behdad’s research team and was the instigator of the team’s entry in the competition.

Priscilla is another “home grown” member of the team, and was a student of Behdad’s, both as an undergraduate and a Ph.D. student. Priscilla grew up in Newcastle, but has family in Fiji and frequently visits her mother’s village. Priscilla gained firsthand experience of water scarcity through her time in Fiji, during both normal living conditions and following cyclones.

Cheng grew up in China where access to quality drinking water is challenging, and water contamination is a critical issue due to pollution of human origin. Completing undergraduate and master’s degrees in China, he became another student of Behdad’s, completing his Ph.D. at the University of Newcastle before becoming a researcher with Behdad’s research team.

Together we are a team whose innate engineer’s curiosity is driven by our diverse backgrounds.

Where some see problems, we see challenges

As engineers, we are drawn to solving problems. We found this competition somewhat serendipitously and it immediately caught our attention. Our current research focuses on addressing global energy challenges through the development of low emission technologies, renewable energy technologies, and engineering solutions to improve energy efficiency. Although the competition focus is on water scarcity, extracting water from air is an energy challenge that has strong parallels to our current research.

We have a strong desire to create sustainable solutions and aid the broader community. Having the ability to identify solutions to global challenges such as water scarcity is part of the reason why we became engineers. We are excited to use our knowledge and skills to develop a solution that will benefit many communities, including those where we have a personal connection.

Solar-powered water solution

Extracting a minimum of 2,000 litres of water per day from the atmosphere using 100% renewable energy at a cost of no more than two cents per litre is a challenge that the Hydro Harvest Operation team is ready to explore.

Our team is aiming to create a device that will adsorb water vapour from the atmosphere and produce fresh water. Our device has been designed to operate on solar energy and make the process less reliant on the ambient temperature. This will allow our device to operate over a wide range of weather conditions, and reach more communities. The device is simple, has minimal moving parts, and will be easily operated and maintained.

Our solution is based on the cyclic absorption of water vapour using a desiccant during the night and the generation of water from the desiccant during the day using solar energy. The night time adsorption is completely passive and requires no energy. The generation of water during the day is based on solar thermal energy increasing the temperature within the device to release the water from the desiccant. A hot humid air stream is created, which makes it easy to condense the water vapour using the cooler ambient air as a heat sink. A fan powered by a small solar photovoltaic panel circulates the air during the day to assist with water generation.

We’re looking forward to the challenges that this competition will raise and cannot wait to develop new technology that could have a global impact for communities worldwide.