These Solar Panels Grow Crops In The Desert By Pulling In Water Vapor

Did you know that only less than 20 percent of the energy that hits a solar panel gets turned into electricity?

Researchers used a layer of water-absorbing hydro-gel underneath the photovoltaic solar panels. The hydro-gel used not only absorbs water vapor from ambient air but also helps to keep the panels cool. The system is called WEC2P. The layer of hydro-gel is mounted on top of a large metal box to condense and collect water. 

During the nighttime, the material collects water molecules. But during the daytime, when the sun heats up the solar panel, the water molecules evaporate and also take away excess heat energy with them.

“A fraction of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to clean water or green power, and many of them live in rural areas with arid or semi-arid climate,” said senior author Peng Wang, professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

“Our design makes water out of air using clean energy that would’ve been wasted and is suitable for decentralized, small-scale farms in remote places like deserts and oceanic islands.”