Introduction to My Senior Project

Taara S -

Hello everybody! My name is Taara Shastri and my senior project is titled “Out of Thin Air: Atmospheric Water Capture and the Future of Water Harvesting.” My interest in water conservation stemmed from my Arizona residency and learning about the depletion of the Colorado River basin. As most know, three percent of the world’s water supply is freshwater, but only one percent is actually accessible to humans in the form of lakes, rivers, etc, though much of it is polluted. Performing water quality tests at an environmental studies summer program and in my environmental science class has accustomed me to conservation efforts and helped me realize the dire need to implement sustainable water usage routines on a large scale. 

The global water shortage is both an environmental and humanitarian crisis. According to World Vision (2023), 771 million people lack access to clean water and almost 1.7 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. In lower-income countries, citizens, especially women and children, are overworked by hauling water for several miles to bring back to their families. Even in non-developing countries, water access is a huge issue due to the pollution or drought-induced dryness of lakes, rivers, and aquifers. Atmospheric water capture (AWC) is a way to collect water vapor from humidity in the air as freshwater. Atmospheric water capture’s potential in its use of inexpensive materials, ability to work in conditions with low relative humidities, and transportability to landlocked regions provides a method that addresses issues to current widespread water harvesting techniques such as desalination. Especially living in a place like Arizona where the monsoon seasons are becoming shorter and shorter, AWC can take advantage of the dry climate and sunny days by using solar energy to power the generators. Because of the relatively new technology that AWC uses, more research and enhancement needs to be done in order to optimize its efficiency and further reduce costs, so AWC can become a more far-reaching technique. 

Throughout my project, I will be working with a Research Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and Built Environment (SSEBE) at ASU. My research will consist of lab experiments. I anticipate using my professor’s lab and the space outside for solar energy to perform controlled experiments using different AWC adsorbents including metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), zeolites, and hygroscopic salts, as well as absorbents like salt-infused and nanoporous sponges. Through these experiments, I will measure how much water is harvested over different cycles and note any potential challenges or pitfalls for each material/method. I will use this information to determine which material is most efficient based on the water yield over a certain time period, in other words, which has the fastest sorption kinetics. 

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    This sounds like it is going to be an amazing and powerful project! I like how you take into account the dry climate of Arizona and how AWC can take advantage of that. I can't wait to hear about how the experiments go!
    I love the way you've integrated the unique Arizona environment into this project! I'm excited to see how the results will differ now that the monsoon seasons have shortened!
    This is such a cool project Taara! I’m so excited to watch the process and see the results. Do you think you’ll be interested in continuing this research in college or in the future once the senior project is over?
    Wow! What an amazing project, I think this is a very important topic to be researching in the current day. Are the different AWC absorbents that you are looking into only used in the United States, or can they also be used in non-developing countries? Especially because they are the ones most in need of clean water.
    Hi Libby, yes I will! This project will give me a great foundation for conducting my own controlled experiments and teach me how to properly use atmospheric water harvesters and dehumidifiers, so I plan to expand on this knowledge in college and beyond.
    Hi Sree, thank you! The adsorbents I will be testing can be used throughout the world, but part of my project is hopefully targeting the high costs that come with purchasing these adsorbents to make them more accessible to developing countries.

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