J-WAFS at MIT creates two technologies that extract drinking water and crop fertilizer from air using the sun
New research into harvesting water from air and technology that enhances crop production are among several projects being supported by the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Co-founded in 2014 by Community Jameel and MIT, J-WAFS is an initiative to coordinate and promote research related to water and food safety and security that will have a positive impact on communities in a rapidly changing world with expanding population.
Seven new projects are being supported by J-WAFS this year, and two notable initiatives include:
- Harvesting water from air: Developing technology that can be used to extract clean, fresh water from the air at any range of humidity using a specialized porous material.
- Enhancing crop production: Creating a solar-powered device to convert atmospheric nitrogen, water, and sunlight into ammonia, which can be added to soil to promote plant growth.
Fady Mohammed Jameel, President of Community Jameel International, said: “Community Jameel firmly believes that MIT-led research can deliver real solutions to help communities transform themselves. With Community Jameel’s partnership, MIT is providing an opportunity to tackle some of the most pressing issues related to food and water safety and security in the Middle East and around the world.”
John Lienhard, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food at MIT, said: “We must continue to advance innovations and creative ideas for delivering safe and secure food and clean and renewable water supplies. Through the innovative technologies and collaborations we are supporting with these new research projects, J-WAFS is working to secure the future of our communities, the sustainability of our cities, and the prosperity of our economies in the face of rising population, greater urbanization, and changing climate.”
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – the world’s driest region – more than half of the region’s population live under conditions of ‘water stress’, where demand outstrips supply, according to the World Bank.
Since 2015, J-WAFS has supported a number of research projects to improve food and water safety and security. In one previous project, environmental modeling is used to understand mercury contamination in rice, which is an emerging pathway to mercury exposure for people living in areas contaminated by coal-fired electricity and other industrial activities. Another project resulted in designs for constructed wetlands that can reduce stormwater runoff and improve the ecological function of water systems in urban centers.