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Applying Biomimetic Principles to Thermoelectric Cooling Devices for Water Collection


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The shortage of freshwater resources in the world has developed the need for sustainable, cost-effective technologies that can produce freshwater on a large scale. Current solutions often have extensive manufacturing requirements, or involve the use of large quantities of energy or toxic chemicals. Atmospheric water generating solutions that minimize the depletion of natural resources can be achieved by incorporating biomimetics, a classification of design inspired by nature. This research seeks to optimize thermoelectric cooling systems for use in water harvesting applications by analyzing the different factors that affect surface temperature and water condensation in TEC devices. Further experiments will be directed towards developing a robust, repeatable system, as well as an accurate measurement system. Surface modifications, device structure and orientation, and power generation will also be studied to better understand the ideal conditions for maximum water collection in thermoelectric cooling systems.
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Environment and Natural Resources Research; Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
ISSN 1927-0488 E-ISSN 1927-0496
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
Applying Biomimetic Principles to Thermoelectric Cooling Devices
for Water Collection
Kyle B Davidson1, Bahram Asiabanpour1 & Zaid Almusaied1
1 Ingram School of Engineering, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, USA
Correspondence: Bahram Asiabanpour, Ingram School of Engineering, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas,
USA. E-mail:
Received: June 3, 2017 Accepted: June 23, 2017 Online Published: July 6, 2017
doi:10.5539/enrr.v7n3p27 URL:
The shortage of freshwater resources in the world has developed the need for sustainable, cost-effective
technologies that can produce freshwater on a large scale. Current solutions often have extensive manufacturing
requirements, or involve the use of large quantities of energy or toxic chemicals. Atmospheric water generating
solutions that minimize the depletion of natural resources can be achieved by incorporating biomimetics, a
classification of design inspired by nature. This research seeks to optimize thermoelectric cooling systems for
use in water harvesting applications by analyzing the different factors that affect surface temperature and water
condensation in TEC devices. Further experiments will be directed towards developing a robust, repeatable
system, as well as an accurate measurement system. Surface modifications, device structure and orientation, and
power generation will also be studied to better understand the ideal conditions for maximum water collection in
thermoelectric cooling systems.
Keywords: atmospheric water generation, biomimicry, dehumidification, fog harvesting, Peltier effect, surface
temperature, surface wettability, sustainability, thermoelectric cooling, water collection
1. Introduction
1.1 Shortage of Freshwater
It has become evident that because of a steadily increasing demand, the depletion of freshwater resources is
putting the sustainable development of human society at risk. In its most recent annual risk report, the World
Economic Forum lists water crises as the largest global threat in terms of potential impact (Mekonnen, 2016;
World Economic Forum, 2015). Global water demand is largely influenced by population growth, urbanization,
food and energy security policies, and macro-economic processes such as trade globalization and changes in
consumption patterns (WWAP, 2015). Other factors that determine water scarcity include the geographical and
climatic variations of water resources (Savenije, 2000). 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the
planet, where water scarcity is the highest, and an estimated 783 million people do not have access to clean water
(United Nations, 2013). Transporting water over long distances via pipeline or tanker produces greenhouses
gases in the construction, transport, and treatment of the water, and costs an average of $9 billion per year to
maintain based on a 200 GL/year delivery over a distance of 4,000 km (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010).
According to the Watereuse Association Desalination Committee, desalination plants require an average of 100
MWh of power to produce 10,000 m³ of potable water per day, which is limited to coastal communities
(Watereuse Association, 2011).
1.2 Background Work
There are alternative methods to mitigate the freshwater crisis in arid ecoregions that revolve around extracting
moisture from the air. The two main classifications of atmospheric water generation (AWG) technologies are
active and passive. Active AWG technologies require the use of energy, and typically include a motorized
compressor or pump to convert from vapor to liquid (Milani, 2012). Passive designs do not cause or perpetuate
the depletion of other limited natural resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas (Jackson, 2012). The focus of
existing research has been on surface wettability and geometrical structure, and less about surface temperature as
a method of biomimetic AWG. Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
1.3 Research Focus
The purpose of this research is to investigate the factors influencing surface temperature as a method of inciting
water condensation. The rest of the article is presented as the following: In sections 2, active, passive, and
combined water collection mechanisms are discussed. In section 3, an experiment setting to test the performance
of a Peltier system is explained. Results followed by a discussion that combines these concepts using
thermoelectric modules including a plans for future works in this field are presented in section 4 and 5,
2. Water Collection Approaches
2.1 Active Water Collection
Condensation will form on any object when the temperature of the object is at or below the dew point
temperature of the air surrounding the object. Dew point temperature is defined simply as the temperature at
which water vapor, when cooled, will begin to condense to the liquid phase. During the process of condensation,
water molecules lose some of the latent heat that was added during the evaporation process, which then warms
the surrounding air (Wahlgren, 2001). Many active AWG technologies employ cooling surfaces to remove this
heat and condense water vapor in the ambient air. This can be done either by using a circulating media called a
refrigerant, or an electrical current.
2.1.1 Refrigerant-based Cooling Systems
Refrigerant is a substance which is used as working fluid in a thermodynamic cycle (Kaushik, 2016). They
absorb heat from one area and reject it into another, usually through evaporation and condensation. Based on
refrigerant types, cooling system techniques can be further sub-categorized into the following: vapor
compression refrigeration (VCR), vapor absorption refrigeration (VAR), and active magnetic regeneration
Typical refrigeration systems are based upon the vapor compression refrigeration (VCR) cycle. In a VCR cycle,
a liquid refrigerant enters a compressor in the form of vapor, and is cooled into a liquid state. The refrigerant
then returns to the evaporator to begin a new cycle. VCR systems have a high coefficient of performance (COP)
compared to other AWG techniques, but have many disadvantages. Compression systems are complex, can be
difficult to maintain, and require a substantial amount of electrical energy to operate (Zubair, 1994). Furthermore,
the refrigerant currently used in VCR systems, R-134a, has a high potential of ozone layer depletion and is not
recommended for long-term use (Brown, 2002).
Vapor absorption refrigeration (VAR) systems lack a mechanical compressor. The only working part in this
system is the pump, which works to heat the refrigerant into a vapor and drive it to the condenser at high
pressure and temperature. The cycle is complete once the heat is rejected to its cooler surroundings and the liquid
refrigerant returns to the absorber. VAR systems require less electrical energy than VCR systems, but the COP
of vapor absorption refrigeration systems is poor. The refrigerant used in VAR systems is usually an
ammonia-water or lithium-bromide-water solution, which, although circulates with greater efficiency than
compressed gas, can be toxic and corrosive (Milani, 2012).
The principle of active magnetic regenerator (AMR) systems involve the use of magnetic elements to propel a
solid, magnetic refrigerant through a cycle that adds/removes the magnetic field to create an increase/decrease in
temperature. AMR systems are not harmful to the environment and have a high COP compared to VCR and
VAR technologies, but are expensive and 2 to 3 times heavier than other refrigerant-based cooling systems
(Gschneidner, 2002).
2.1.2 Thermoelectric Cooling Systems
Thermoelectric cooling devices create a heat flux between the junction of two materials to condense water vapor
without the use of refrigerants. The thermoelectric, or Peltier effect, occurs when heat from a current is
interchanged between two polar conductors (Tellurex Corporation, 2010). The Peltier effect most strongly
manifests itself in semiconductor circuits, composed of n-type and p-type semiconductors commonly made from
Bismuth telluride and its alloys. The direction of the electric field causes electrons in the n-type and holes in the
p-type to flow towards one another. When electrons pass through this boundary, an electron enters the p-type and
takes the place of a hole. This recombination causes heat to be released on one side of the TEC device and
absorbed on the other, depending on the direction of the electric current. TEC modules are compact, low
maintenance, cost-effective, free of moving parts, and do not pose any major risk to the environment; however,
they have the lowest COP compared to other active AWG technologies, and have seen little improvement in
their thermal efficiency over the years. Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
Figure 1. n-type and p-type semiconductors within a thermoelectric cooling device
2.2 Passive Water Collection
Passive AWG designs can be achieved through biomimetic principles, which minimize damage to the
environment as their technologies do not require large quantities of energy or toxic chemicals. Kennedy et al.
(Kennedy, 2015) defines biomimicry as a classification of design that seeks sustainable solutions to human
challenges by learning from and emulating biological forms, processes, and ecosystems tested by the
environment and refined through evolution. Many plant and animal species have evolved adaptations that give
them the ability to attract, repel, or transport water. During the last few decades, researchers across the globe
have studied these adaptations in an effort to guide the development of future AWG technologies.
2.2.1 Surface Wettability
One of the most widely researched topics in passive water collection is the Stenocara gracilipes, a species of
beetle native to the extremely arid Namib Desert in southern Africa. The Namib Desert is completely devoid of
surface water and has a highly unpredictable annual rainfall. Thick fogs along the coast provide enough moisture
for a number of highly-adapted animal species, such as the Stenocara beetle, to survive (Jacobson, 1995). Also
known as the fogstand beetle, this species adopts a head standing position facing the wind in order to collect fog
droplets on their forewings (White, 2013), which are coated with a combination of hydrophilic bumps and
hydrophobic grooves. Droplets accumulate on the bumps until they are large enough to coalesce and roll down
into the waxy grooves and into the beetle's mouth. Several experiments have been modeled after these
hydrophobic and hydrophilic micro- and nano-structures in an effort to improve surface wettability and attain
higher yields of water.
Figure 2. Stenocara gracilipes Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
Dorrer et al. (Dorrer, 2008) conducted an experiment to test whether or not the beetle's fog harvesting ability can
be attributed to the waxy and non-waxy surfaces on its back. Hydrophobicized silicon nanograss with
hydrophilic circular polymer bumps were prepared, on which drops of water were deposited and analyzed at
various angles. A range of drop radii between 2 and 4mm was observed during testing (Dorrer, 2008), which is
comparable to the 4-5mm drop diameters that have been observed for the beetles in their natural environment
range from 4-5mm (Parker, 2001).
In 2013, researchers from McGill University in Montreal tested PTFE, Al, Ti, and SS-CNT samples to better
understand the wetting properties of materials as well as the effect pattern has on the Stenocara beetles'
capability to collect water. To cover various surface contrast ranges, the samples were channeled, checkered,
dot-patterned, or unmodified. White et al. (White, 2013) found that, although there were slight differences in the
coalescence and motion of the drops on the differently patterned surfaces, no direct influence of the type of
pattern on the sample was found on its water collection ability.
Pazokian et al. (Pazokian, 2012) used UV laser pulses to tailor the wetting properties of polymers from highly
hydrophilic to superhydrophobic. Their results indicated that the surface wettability variations are dominantly
caused by laser-induced chemical modifications, which are highly dependent on the pulse energy and duration
(Pazokian, 2012). The ability to tune the wetting properties of materials using chemical and laser treatments has
been achieved by NBD Nanotechnologies, a startup company inspired by the Stenocara beetle that claims to
have mastered surface wettability using their formulated coatings and additives. Supported by the United States
Department of Agriculture in a SBIR Phase II grant, NBD has piloted its fog capture technology in various sites
in California in an effort to prove efficacy of an alternative passive water resource (NBD Nano, 2016). During
testing, NBD demonstrated approximately 3-5 fold enhancement of water harvesting from fog using their coated
mesh, compared to traditional non-coated fog nets. At maximum, above 5 gallons of water from a single 1m² fog
net can be collected per day (USDA, 2015).
Some plant species, such as the lotus, exploit their natural hydrophobicity for self-cleaning. Although many
other plants have superhydrophobic surfaces with 150º+ contact angles, the combination of optimized features
such as the surface topography, robustness, and unique properties of the epicuticular wax contribute to the lotus
plant's exceptional stability and water repellency (Ensikat, 2011). The nanostructures on their surfaces are coated
with wax crystals approximately 1nm in diameter, which makes the surface at the nanoscale rough, and therefore
more hydrophobic (Kalaugher, 2002). Most of the artificial surfaces developed thus far have used various
polymers during synthesis; Latthe et al. (Latthe, 2014) believes that future superhydrophobic research should be
directed towards organic, polymeric superhydrophobic coatings, as they show good adhesion and can last longer
with high mechanical durability and optical transparency.
Figure 3. Surperhydrophobic surface of the lotus plant Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
2.2.2 Geometrical Structure and Arrangement
In other experiments, researchers have studied the effects geometrical properties have on the ability of different
plant species to collect water, particularly those found in deserts and ecoregions where there is minimal rainfall.
Many species of plants are self-sustainable, and can survive some of the world's most extreme climates due to
structural adaptations that allow them to consume vapor from the air in the event of a drought.
According to a study conducted by Martorell and Ezcurra (Martorell, 2006) on the functional and evolutionary
approach to fog-harvesting, plants that use fog as an important water source frequently have a rosette growth
habit. Many plant species that belong to the agave, bromeliad, and succulent families rely on the funnels that
form from the rosette pattern to conduct water to the plant's roots. Ebner et al. (Ebner, 2011) tested several
species of this type of plant using models with the purpose of identifying any correlation between leaf surface
area/density, and water collection abilities. It was found that high positive interception efficiencies corresponded
to the models with long, narrow leaves, while low values corresponded to the models with wide, thick, fleshy
leaves (Ebner, 2011).
Figure 4. Agave species with long, narrow leaves
Studies done on Stipagrostis sabulicola, an endemic grass species found in dune fields of the central Namib
Desert, also show that narrow leaves with a high length-to-width ratio are the most suitable for fog harvesting
(Roth-Nebelsick, 2012). According to Jones (Jones, 1992), there is a significant evolutionary trend towards the
so-called "narrow-leaf syndrome" in xerophytic rosettes and other plants that grow in fog-rich ecoregions.
Furthermore, fast winds reduce the envelope of slow-moving air around the leaves and drive droplets into the
leeward side of the leaf, where no droplets would normally collide. Since wind speed increases with distance
from the ground, structures should be placed high above the ground as observed in some species of Yucca and
Nolina (Jones, 1992). Therefore, the following factors should characterize efficient fog harvesters: long, narrow
structures that are both large in number and placed at a higher distance from the ground.
2.2.3 Surface Temperature and Thermoregulation
The internal generation of heat to maintain body temperature is usually associated with birds and mammals.
Thermoregulation also occurs in some plant species in order to enhance rates of pollination and maintain stable
tissue temperatures (Watling, 2008). A critical requirement of plants is that they maintain a consistent leaf
temperature as close as possible to the optimal temperature for growth in variable environmental circumstances.
Thermal stability is achieved by increasing the rate of heat production in proportion to the decrease in ambient
temperature (Seymour, 1996). The thermoregulatory processes in plants are only thermogenesis, the generation
of heat in the face of cooler ambient temperatures.
Conversely, Ishay et al. (Ishay, 2003) observed that hornets or wasps of the subfamily Vespinae have body
temperatures that are sometimes significantly lower than the ambient temperature. This suggests that the hornets
posses a natural thermoelectric heat pump that allows for internal cooling. The hornet cuticle has a layered
cellular microstructure that is strikingly reminiscent of the alternating n-type and p-type microstructures used in
the fabrication of commercial TEC devices (Ishay, 2003). Ishay et al. believes that this is the first instance where
a natural biological heat pump has been observed in a living creature, and also believes this is the first time that a Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
thermoelectric effect is deemed to play a role in the physiology of a living creature. It has not yet been identified
whether or not thermoregulating species use their natural abilities for the purpose of collecting water, although,
as mentioned above, the formation of condensation is highly dependent on surface temperature. The continuation
of this research may contribute to the advancement of bio-inspired AWG solutions.
2.3 Combining Passive and Active AWG Techniques
In order to develop an economical, cost-effective AWG system that can be used on a large scale, one must
consider both the advantages and disadvantages of the technologies currently used today. From an ecological
perspective, biomimetic AWG methods are preferred due to their sustainable nature and low maintenance.
However, as mentioned above, the performance of some biomimetic technologies such as array structure and
surface modifications are maximized only when air flow, such as wind, is present. For active AWG technologies,
thermoelectric cooling systems are an attractive option due to their being small, motionless, noiseless, and cheap
compared to other active AWG methods. Regarding energy efficiency, another advantage of the TEC device is
that they work by DC electrical current which makes the integration with solar PV systems possible (Milani,
2012). However, a major challenge in the cooling system based on the Peltier effect is temperature control and
consistency. Hence, the focus of this research is on optimizing surface temperature in thermoelectric cooling
devices as a means to incite the formation of condensation.
3. Method
3.1 Identifying the Factors that Affect Surface Temperature in a TEC Device
The temperature difference generated between the hot and cold sides of the TEC device depends on many factors
such as ambient temperature and humidity, the nature of the thermal load, optimization of voltage and current
delivery to the TEC device, and optimization of heat sinks (Muñoz-García, 2013). A TEC device has a
maximum heat pumping capacity Qmax if the temperature difference between both sides is 0ºC. The current and
voltage associated with Qmax are Imax and Vmax, respectively. ΔTmax is the maximum temperature difference
across the device, when absolutely no heat is pumped. However, this maximum value is only theoretical and is
never reached in a thermoelectric application (Meerstetter Engineering, 2017). According to Meerstetter
Engineering, there is always a trade-off between Qmax and ΔTmax; at Imax either Qmax is zero and ΔTmax is
at its maximum, or vice versa. It should be noted that an increase in thermal load causes a higher rate of electron
recombination to occur, decreasing the optimal performance of the device. Performance can also be
compromised if a heat sink is not employed in a thermoelectric cooling design. When cooling a thermal load,
some form of heat sink must be used to dissipate collected heat into another medium, such as air or water
(Tellurex Corporation, 2010). Without such provisions, the TEC device will be vulnerable to overheating; once it
reaches the melting point of the solder, the unit will be destroyed.
3.2 Testing the Factors that Affect Surface Temperature in a TEC Device
For this application, it is required that the temperature of the cold side remains below the atmospheric dew point,
and above freezing temperatures to allow for the formation of condensation. An experiment was conducted using
a 40 mm² TEC1-12706 thermoelectric module made from aluminum oxide (Thermonamic, 2015) to test for
consistency in surface temperature over time at a constant voltage. The TEC device was attached flat against a 107
mm² aluminum heat sink, under which a cooling fan was positioned. The system was then placed on a small
support structure to allow for air circulation. The 12 V power supply that connected the cooling fan and TEC
device was set to maximum voltage. Five testing points on the surface of the TEC device were selected: one on
each corner, and one in the center. Voltage was applied to the TEC system for 15 min, and the surface temperature
of each point was recorded at 1-min intervals, using both a thermocouple and an infrared thermometer.
Figure 5. Temperature testing points on the TEC device Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
4. Results
The following chart illustrates the variation of temperature, measured with a thermocouple, over time for different
measurement spots.
Figure 6. Cold side temperature taken with thermocouple. Ambient temperature 23ºC, ambient humidity 56%,
dew point 14ºC
Although surface temperature remains fairly consistent at each of the five points, data shows temperature
differences between the point locations. However, it should be noted that the formation of condensation was
observed on the cold side surface, and remained in a liquid state throughout testing. This indicates that, on
average, the surface temperature remained above 0ºC and below the atmospheric dew point of 14ºC; data
collected using the thermocouple instrument reflects these preconditions for condensation.
5. Conclusion
Together, the findings discussed in this article establish convergence in a vast range of water harvesting methods
and can serve as a guide for future sustainable AWG designs. The results of this experiment support previous
works by others (Almusaied, Z. and Asiabanpour, B. 2017) and show capacity for producing water by utilizing
surface temperature in thermoelectric cooling devices. However, further experiments are necessary to better
understand the conditions that support consistent behavior in a TEC system when attempting to induce the
formation of water. A robust, repeatable system, as well as a more accurate measurement system will be needed
in order to develop reliable temperature control procedures that will keep the surface temperature below dew
point and above freezing temperatures. An in-depth study between surface modifications/device layout and
condensation formation/dew drop behavior will also need to be conducted in order to exploit biomimetic
principles and improve the water collection abilities of thermoelectric cooling devices. Based on these studies,
further experiments will be conducted to measure the water generation output and determine the efficacy of this
method to produce potable water on a larger scale. Utlizing renewable energy such as solar energy will also
impact the environment positively by producing fresh water without any additional consumption of
non-renewable energy (Asiabanpour et. al. 2017). The estimation of the fresh water is around 1% of the total
water on our planet. Capturing and utilizing atmospheric water, which is estimated to be around 3095 cubic
miles, can be a potential sustainable solution to the growing water demand problem (Almusaied & Asiabanpour,
2017). The most common applied technology in this field during the last few years is VCR. The power
consumption associated with this technology is still high. The use of renewable energy to supply the AWGs can
be a viable environmental solution to this problem. Also, a further development to reduce the power
consumption of the AWG will be a game changer in this field.Continuing this research will allow for the
advancement of AWG technologies that have the potential to benefit communities in developing countries while
causing minimal economic and environmental strain.
This work has been completed with funding from the US Department of Agriculture and Department of
Education-MSEIP program. The authors would like to thank the USDA, ED, and Texas State University for
providing funding and access to infrastructure and laboratories. Sponsors are not responsible for the content and
accuracy of this article. Environment and Natural Resources Research Vol. 7, No. 3; 2017
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This rigorous yet accessible text introduces the key physical and biochemical processes involved in plant interactions with the aerial environment. It is designed to make the more numerical aspects of the subject accessible to plant and environmental science students, and will also provide a valuable reference source to practitioners and researchers in the field. The third edition of this widely recognised text has been completely revised and updated to take account of key developments in the field. Approximately half of the references are new to this edition and relevant online resources are also incorporated for the first time. The recent proliferation of molecular and genetic research on plants is related to whole plant responses, showing how these new approaches can advance our understanding of the biophysical interactions between plants and the atmosphere. Remote sensing technologies and their applications in the study of plant function are also covered in greater detail.
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The lotus plant is recognized as a 'King plant' among all the natural water repellent plants due to its excellent non-wettability. The superhydrophobic surfaces exhibiting the famous 'Lotus Effect', along with extremely high water contact angle (>150°) and low sliding angle (<10°), have been broadly investigated and extensively applied on variety of substrates for potential self-cleaning and anti-corrosive applications. Since 1997, especially after the exploration of the surface micro/nanostructure and chemical composition of the lotus leaves by the two German botanists Barthlott and Neinhuis, many kinds of superhydrophobic surfaces mimicking the lotus leaf-like structure have been widely reported in the literature. This review article briefly describes the different wetting properties of the natural superhydrophobic lotus leaves and also provides a comprehensive state-of-the-art discussion on the extensive research carried out in the field of artificial superhydrophobic surfaces which are developed by mimicking the lotus leaf-like dual scale micro/nanostructure. This review article could be beneficial for both novice researchers in this area as well as the scientists who are currently working on non-wettable, superhydrophobic surfaces.
Alternatives in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning highlights the issues related to ozone layer depletion and global warming due to use of conventional cooling technologies and refrigerants in the field of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC). It describes, simulates and analyzes the alternate technologies and alternate refrigerants from energy and exergy point of view. The unconventional and alternative refrigeration technologies viz. Vapor Absorption Refrigeration, Vapor Adsorption Refrigeration, Evaporative Cooling, Desiccant Cooling, Thermoelectric Refrigeration, Thermo Acoustic Refrigeration, Ejector Cooling, Vortex Tube Refrigeration Systems and Metal Hydride Refrigeration etc. are explored in the subject matter of this book. The combined or integrated approach of some technologies to enhance the performance, waste heat utilization or to increase the arena of its use is also discussed. This book will cater to the needs of the RAC community from the point of view of feasible futuristic options in this area. This book will also serve as a text book for postgraduate students especially of thermal and energy engineering stream and useful to the teachers, researchers, and practicing engineers.
Atmospheric water vapour processing (AWVP) technology is reviewed. These processors are machines which extract water molecules from the atmosphere, ultimately causing a phase change from vapour to liquid. Three classes of machines have been proposed. The machines either cool a surface below the dewpoint of the ambient air, concentrate water vapour through use of solid or liquid desiccants, or induce and control convection in a tower structure. Patented devices vary in scale and potable water output from small units suitable for one person's daily needs to structures as large as multi-story office buildings capable of supplying drinking water to an urban neighbourhood. Energy and mass cascades (flowcharts) are presented for the three types of water vapour processors. The flowcharts assist in classifying designs and discussing their strengths and limitations. Practicality and appropriateness of the various designs for contributing to water supplies are considered along with water cost estimates. Prototypes that have been tested successfully are highlighted. Absolute humidity (meteorological normals) ranges from 4.0 g of water vapour per cubic metre of surface air in the atmosphere (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA) to 21.2 g m-3 (Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti). Antofagasta, Chile has a normal absolute humidity of 10.9 g m-3. A 40% efficient machine in the vicinity of Antofagasta requires an airflow of 10 m3 s-1 to produce 3767 l of water per day. At a consumption of 50 l per person per day, 75 people could have basic water requirements for drinking, sanitation, bathing, and cooking met by a decentralized and simplified water supply infrastructure with attendant economic and societal benefits.