This startup has figured out a way to produce water out of thin air — possibly at scale

Samantha Machado July 4, 2017 5 min

Story Highlights

  • Uravu Labs has devised a product that sources drinking water from atmospheric air using condensation cooling, and can ‘produce’ up to 200 litres a day
  • The product, named Eva, has been tested in Hyderabad, Kozhikode and Bengaluru; it produces about drinking water at a cost of Rs 1.5-2 per litre
  • Eva is fitted with air filters that have a three-stage purification process and can filter out suspended particulate matter even of 0.3 microns in size

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A Kerala-based startup, Uravu Labs, has devised a product that sources drinking water from atmospheric air using condensation cooling, and can ‘produce’ up to 200 litres of water a day under testing conditions. The volume is slated to go up as the equipment is refined, say the founders.

In simple terms, the product cools the air to the point that water vapour undergoes condensation and converts to the liquid state.

The product, named Eva, is yet to be launched but has been tested in Hyderabad, Kozhikode and Bengaluru; it produces about 200 litres of drinking water a day at a cost of Rs 1.5-2 per litre  

The product, named Eva, is yet to be launched but has been tested in Hyderabad, Kozhikode and Bengaluru; it produces about 200 litres of drinking water a day at a cost of Rs 1.5-2 per litre. Eva, which means “life”, aims to create a decentralised public infrastructure (eliminating the need to lay pipelines and pump water) that makes water available to everyone.

In shape and size, this water kiosk looks no different from a double-door refrigerator. It might be bulky, but is portable. It merely needs to be connected to electricity to start generating, what its makers claim, is water fit to drink.

A video demonstration of the product prototype:

Product architect and Uravu Labs CEO and cofounder Swapnil Shrivastav, 24, told FactorDaily that even in polluted localities, one can trust Eva to generate pure, drinking water. He informed that towards this end, Eva is fitted with air filters that have a three-stage purification process and can filter out suspended particulate matter even of 0.3 microns in size. He claimed that harmful particulate matter like carbon soot will be removed and toxic gases will be absorbed.

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A major concern with water sourced from the atmosphere is its lack of mineral content. Water conservation expert Vishwanath Srikantaiah said treated water obtained from rivers and lakes contains natural minerals in minute quantities while atmospheric water has no minerals. Vishwanath said water generated from condensing air needs to have minerals added to it to be fit for consumption.

Eva is fitted with air filters that have a three-stage purification process and can filter out suspended particulate matter even of 0.3 microns in size. Its makers claim that harmful particulate matter like carbon soot will be removed and toxic gases will be absorbed  

Uravu Labs claims to have taken care of this aspect as well. Eva is fitted with a cartridge that adds the required minerals to the water and also balances its pH (acidity) level. Further, Shrivastav clarified that water vapour in the atmosphere is inexhaustible and gets continuously replenished. He said sourcing water from air doesn’t affect the surroundings or people in that radius in any manner.

But what about low humidity regions?

While the product might look promising, GS Srinivasa Reddy, director of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, has his reservations about its efficacy in dry regions. “High moisture content is required for the working of this machine. In drought-prone areas, moisture content and humidity is low,” he said. “This technology is not very efficient in drought-prone areas.”

Eva-water-kiosk-Product_prototype
In shape and size, the water kiosk looks no different from a double-door refrigerator

But Shrivastav says the technology can work even in conditions where concentration of water vapour in the air is as low as 10-12 parts per million, vouching for its efficiency.

The product has believers too. Sudhakaran KS, chairman and managing director of Sanpar Industries, which deals in compressed air purification among other operations, has tested Eva and given it a thumbs up. “It’s a technological revolution. It’s basically condensation of water from the atmosphere, exploiting the humidity in the air. Such particular concepts are appreciated. The quality of water is good and it’s definitely potable. I had this water in CV Raman Nagar from the prototype they developed,” he said.

Getting to 5,000 litres a day

Shrivastav and his team of five that developed the prototype see the future version of their drinking water kiosk generating as much as 5,000 litres a day. They believe the cost of production can be brought down to 50-60 paise a litre by scaling up and using solar power. The team also takes pride in a sensor platform attached to Eva. Their technology monitors air quality and a few other environmental parameters in real-time and displays them on the screen.

Condensation-photo
Eva cools the air to the point that water vapour undergoes condensation and converts to the liquid state

Uravu Labs is expecting to launch Eva within the next three-four months. It has neither applied for certification nor decided a price, though. Nevertheless, expressions of interest for this product are already trickling in. Shrivastav said Kozhikode Municipal Corporation and Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation have shown pre-order interest.

The idea of a portable water kiosk occurred to Shrivastav when he was required to work on a research project in his final semester in National Institute of Technology, Calicut, in 2013. The theme of the project was ‘Imagining the Future of Water and City’. He said he studied the water distribution model of Cochin and realised that centralised distribution system is the only option people have. This, he said, inspired him to work towards an alternative, independent source of water and his efforts bore fruit in the form of Eva. His Uravu Labs is recognised by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Centre’s Start-up India programme.

The idea of a portable water kiosk occurred to Uravu Labs CEO and cofounder Swapnil Shrivastav while working on a research project in his final semester in National Institute of Technology, Calicut, in 2013. The theme of the project was ‘Imagining the Future of Water and City’  

Similar technologies have been developed by Water-Gen, an Israeli company,  Water Maker in India and Water from Air, a South African company. Most of these startup have been trying to solve the drinking water crisis in drought prone areas and reduce the . For Instance, Water Gen claims to generate water at 10 cents a gallon and they are piloting the project in Miami, US.

Comparing to other similar products in the market, Shrivastav pointed that their model is a compact and cost-effective.

“One of the other unique features of our compact model is that we have a vertically integrated airflow management system that helps in reducing the overall power consumption. Any such system normally uses 20-30% energy for air flow management, but our solution is able to bring down the energy consumption to half,” he added.


Lead visual: Nikhil Raj The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Samantha Machado is a Bengaluru based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.