In an age when the average American consumes around 80 to 100 gallons of water every day, more than 1.2 billion people in developing countries across the world are denied proper access to clean water. In most cases, they reside in places plagued by water shortage, especially in areas where purification equipment aren’t easily available. Designed by Barcelona-based innovators, Watly is a versatile solar-powered contraption that promises to bring clean, safe water, electricity as well as internet connectivity to remotely-located communities.
Currently undergoing a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo, Watly is an incredibly advanced generator that relies on solar energy to perform a host of tasks, including water purification, off-grid electricity generation and providing access to internet. The result of three long years of research, the device has already been installed in Ghana, where it is undergoing preliminary testing. According to the developers, the machine can be scaled up to cater to a community of over 3,000 people.
Featuring a simple, modular design, Watly runs on energy harvested with the help of specially-built solar panels fitted on its surface. The collected power is stored inside a 140 kWh battery, and is later used to desalinate and decontaminate water sourced from rivers and oceans. The contraption, the team claims, is requires low-maintenance, operating off-the-grid. The water is stored inside three 5,000-liter tanks.
To purify the stored water, the machine relies on an advanced graphene-based technology that separates the pollutants, such as soaps, hydrocarbons and solvents. Following that, the water is distilled using heat from the photovoltaic panels, by an innovative system invented by the team. Finally, it is sent to a specially-designed mineraliser and acid regulator to balance out the water’s pH level. Speaking about the contraption, James H. Nakagawa of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer said:
Access to clean and affordable drinking water should be a natural human right and not a luxury. Watly is tackling the big questions and real needs of the 5 billion people who face this daily challenge.
Watly boasts an ingenious design that allows it produce all the energy it consumes. Additionally, it can be used to power a range of electronic devices, including smartphones, laptops, portable lamps and so on. Each unit features as many as 40 roof-mounted mono-crystalline solar panels that together generate up to 70 kWh of electricity every day.
Led by Italian entrepreneur Marco Attisani, the team has also incorporated an advanced communication technology that aims to provide internet access even in remote locations across the globe. Proper internet connectivity would allow people in developing nations to keep abreast of current news, developments in healthcare, educational information and so on. To that end, the contraption uses a combination of satellite connections, existing 3G/4G networks and radio links.
What’s more, each Watly can communicate with other Watly devices via internet. Capable of operating for a total of 15 years, the machine can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 2,500 tons during its lifetime. The project, the team points out, has already received over $2 million of funding, and will also be featured in a special Discovery Channel documentary towards the end of 2016. Diran Soumonni, a student at South Africa-based University of Witwatersrand said:
No matter how cool it is as a technical gadget, unless it gets used it’s not considered to be a successful innovation. This kind of solution, on the surface of it, is moving in the right direction. What I would like to see is for African inventors who live embedded in these environments or are closer to them to be involved in some co-creation.