University of Newcastle team tackles the global water crisis in XPRIZE competition.

Behdad Moghtaderi
Behdad Moghtaderi

A RESEARCH team from the University of Newcastle will pocket $1.75 million and potentially solve the global water shortage if the chemical engineers can figure out the best way to extract water from the air.

The team, led by Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, is working on a prototype to develop a low-cost, energy-efficient way to essentially convert the air’s humidity into drinkable water as part of the $1.75 million Water Abundance XPrize competition.

“This could make water available to so many people,” Professor Moghtaderi said. “The competition requires us to produce at least 2000 litres of water per day from the air, and at a cost of two cents per litre.”

Of the 98 teams competing in the two-year, global competition, only four are from Australia. The goal is to create decentralised access to water, giving people the power to access fresh water wherever they need it.

“The idea is to find the most efficient technology and fund it through the next stage of development and commercialisation,” Professor Moghtaderi said.

“We have a very interesting concept – unfortunately I can’t divulge what it is, but we are very excited about it.”

The Water Abundance Xprize is a two-year competition where teams must create a device that extracts a minimum of 2000 litres of water per day from the atmosphere using 100 per cent renewable energy.

Zenia Tata, of Xprize, said they had been “thrilled” by the global response and the diversity of entrants.

“The competition is an opportunity for Australia to work collaboratively with neighbours in the Indo Pacific region to find innovative solutions to solve the global challenge of water scarcity, and improve the lives of people living in communities that will benefit most from these breakthroughs,” she said.

It was launched in India in October 2016 at a United Nations day reception in New Delhi.

The winner will be announced in August 2018.