Although invisible to human eyes, air contains large quantities of water. While it is obviously dispersed, the atmosphere contains 12 quadrillion litres of water vapour. Which is close to 10 times the water we have in all the rivers combined. This evaporated water forms our well-known clouds and brings us rain. In dry areas, few clouds form and little rain falls. Nevertheless, many animals and plants in dry coastal regions, rely on humid air as their main source of water. The Namibian Desert Beetle has hydrophilic and hydrophobic areas on its skin to collect water. Desert spider webbing catches and absorbs water from air. Sponsh technology is based on this natural phenomenon.
Using the Natural Water Cycle
A smart material
inspired by nature
Looking at how nature works in dry coastal areas, researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology developed a temperature-sensitive smart textile. At night, when temperatures are low, the material is super-hydrophilic. This means the material attracts water and absorbs water from the air. The fibres swell up 4 times their size. During the day, when temperatures are high, the material turns super-hydrophobic. This means the material repels the water. The fibres contract and squeeze-out the water like a sponge. Thus: the name of our startup!
Preliminary research at the university shows that the material is able to absorb and release water over 3 times its own weight each cycle. This way, the material absorbs water from the air every night and releases it during the day. Extrapolating the current results, one square meter of the coated textile would produce up to 1.3 liter per day. The material is expected to work in dry coastal areas with sufficient difference in temperature between day and night.
Technology Development Path
The material performs well in the lab. We will develop prototypes as soon as possible to experience behavior in real life conditions: durability, water production and costs.
Note that we are still in the development phase. However promising the material may appear in the lab, in the end it comes down to how well the material performs in real life. We are therefore currently improving the material, scaling it up, testing it in real life conditions and adjusting it. We are fond of the Lean startup methodology, implying fast iterations, reducing uncertainties and testing products with end-users.
For 8 years, the proof-of-principle was developed at Eindhoven University of Technology. Sponsh was founded January 2018 to scale up and bring the invention to life. Technology development comes with many uncertainties. Therefore the timeline below may be subject to changes.
Hoover over the different items to see details about the phase
To see how the material works under a microscope, check out the video below.
Following successful prototyping, we will deploy several large-scale pilots across the globe and see how the material behaves for longer periods of time and in different regions.
The material looks very promising in the lab
When the material proves successful, sales will start. We expect this in fall 2019
Following successful prototyping, we will deploy several large-scale pilots across the globe and see how the material behaves for longer periods of time and in different regions. Most likely we will test in Portugal, the Middle East and South Africa.