Innovation is needed to deliver UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure universal ‘access to safe water and sanitation’ by 2030.

Researchers in America are developing pioneering systems using the sun to do just that. A team from the University at Buffalo (UB) published a study paper this week in the journal, Advanced Science, on their method for ‘using energy from the sun to evaporate and purify water’. The Buffalo twist on an ancient idea involves ‘draping black, carbon-dipped paper in a triangular shape and using it to both absorb and vaporize water’.

The Buffalo system. Credit: Huaxiu Chen

This low-cost solar still tech (pictured) demonstrated in tests it can produce water in high amounts, making it a potential game changing breakthrough for areas suffering from water scarcity or a disaster.

“When you talk to government officials or nonprofits working in disaster zones, they want to know: ‘How much water can you generate every day?’ We have a strategy to boost daily performance. With a solar still the size of a mini fridge, we estimate that we can generate 10 to 20 liters of clean water every single day,” said Haomin Song, a UB electrical engineering PhD graduate.

Innovators Magazine also reported in 2017 the efforts of scientists from MIT and the University of California at Berkeley to advance a technology which would enable people anywhere in the world to literally suck water from the sky to provide their daily needs.

And the recently launched $1 million 2018 Urban Water Scarcity Challenge is searching for more innovative ideas to secure universal access to this life giving natural resource.