A designed, Kistof Retezár, has invented Fontus, a device that can be attached to a water bottle that turns humidity into drinkable water. Based in Vienna, Austria, Retezár planned for Fontus to be used by cyclists who were going long distances in the country. The goal was for these cyclists to be able to create their own water when they might not be able to stop for several miles.
What Is Fontus?
Fontus is powered by solar cells and can create about half a liter of water in an hour, when the humidity is at the right levels. While the idea for this design was first thought of as being a solution for cyclists, Retezár quickly saw that Fontus could have other applications.
The History of Fontus
Retezár knew that harvesting water from humid air was a practice that been used throughout history on continents that often had high temperatures and little access to healthy drinking water. Considering that the Earth is full of unused freshwater, Retezár decided to use history to fuel a smaller, portable bottle that could condense air to produce drinking water.
As he began to work on the project, Retezár realized that Fontus could be used for more than cyclists. Because water scarcity is a growing problem, even in the United States, a tool that could seemingly pull fresh water out of the air could save the lives of billions of people.
The goal of the Austrian designer then became to create a compact, solar-powered device that could take in humid air, separate the water and air molecules, and then store the water in a bottle.
Despite water harvesting being a fairly common occurrence, what Retezár was trying to create would be smaller and more versatile than any other device. This meant that his project would take a lot of trial and error.
He started with experiments on what the ideal conditions would be to get the humidity from the air. While the life of a scientist may seem glamorous, Retezár actually did this part of the development in his bathroom. He would adjust the amount of humidity and the temperature in his bathroom to see what would work best.
After a lot of hard work, Retezár was finally able to get a drop of water every minute. This only left finding the right materials and cooling systems. When he was able to create the inner workings of the bottle, he finally created the hull, so it would fit onto a bicycle.
How Fontus Works
At the end of his experiments and after creating the proper design, Retezár was finally ready to reveal the product. Now, Fontus works by cooling hot, humid air. It does this by using a small cooler that is installed to the center of the bottle. This cooling device is called Peltier Element.
The cooler is divided into two sections. When Peltier Element is being powered electrically, its upper side will cool down as the bottom warms. The hotter the one side gets, the cooler the other side gets. While this is happening, air enters through the bottom, moving quickly due to the movement of the bike it’s attached to. The air cools the hot side, making it start to lose its water molecules. Because this process takes time, the walls that hold the air are filled with little holes, so the air can fully release the water.
As the air condenses, the water drops through a pipe and into the bottle. When this process is complete, the water bottle can be tipped vertically and loosened.
The water that Fontus makes is usually very clean, unless it’s being used in an area that has extremely contaminated air. In the future, Retezár wants to make a carbon filter for Fontus, so it can be used in cities, as well. However, at the moment, Fontus is mostly used in nature, away from contaminates, so the water should be clean.
Future Concepts for Fontus
As already mentioned, Fontus was created to be used on bikes, even though Retezár knew it could lead to further innovations in a water-starved world.
At the moment, Fontus can be used two different ways. As described above, it can be used on a bicycle, so riders no longer have to worry about where and when they’ll be able to fill up their water bottles next. Retezár is currently working on the second application, which won’t require airflow from the bicycles movement to work. This version would be able to stand up and pull in air through a ventilator. The goal is for this to be used in countries that have high humidity levels, but no access to clean water.
Retezár says, “The idea was to solve a global problem: water issues in areas of the world where there is very little groundwater but very high humidity. My intent was to invent a machine or device that would be able to filter the humidity in the air and turn it into drinkable water.”
Fontus Awards and Recognition
In 2014, Fontus was shortlisted for the James Dyson Award. This nomination gave Retezár the publicity he needed to gain funding. He received funds from the government of Austria, who agreed pay for the technical development.
While Fontus is not for sale at the moment, Retezár is hoping to do a crowdfunding campaign in March, 2016, to help cover the costs of mass producing Fontus. The goal of Retezár is to keep the price of the bottle under $100, so it appeals to a larger crowd.
Fontus should be available for purchase by December, 2016.