It started out modestly enough: David Hertz, having learned that under the right conditions you really can make your own water out of thin air, put a little contraption on the roof of his office and began cranking out free bottles of H2O for anyone who wanted one. Soon he and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz, were thinking bigger—so much so that this week the couple won the $1.5 million XPrize For Water Abundance. They prevailed by developing a system that uses shipping containers, wood chips, and other detritus to produce as much as 528 gallons of water a day at a cost of no more than 2 cents a quart, the AP reports. The XPrize competition has awarded more than $140 million over the years for what it calls audacious, futuristic ideas aimed at protecting and improving the planet.
When Hertz learned a couple of years ago that a prize was about to be offered to whoever could come up with a cheap, innovative way to produce clean freshwater for a world that doesn't have enough of it, he decided to go all in. Hertz, his wife, and their partner Richard Groden, who created the smaller machine, assembled The Skysource/Skywater Alliance and went to work. They settled on creating little rainstorms inside shipping containers by heating up wood chips to produce the temperature and humidity needed to draw water from the air and the wood itself. Matthew Stuber, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who was one of the panel's judge's, calls the water-making machine a "really cool" merging of rather simple technologies that can be used to quickly deliver water to regions hit by natural disasters, stricken by drought, or even rural areas with a shortage of clean water.
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