by TECHSTAR on JUNE 28, 2013 - 0 Comments in WATER
“At any given moment the earth’s atmosphere contains 326 million cubic miles of water and of this, 97% is saltwater and only 3% is fresh water. Of the 3% that is fresh water, 70% is frozen in Antarctica and of the remaining 30% only 0.7% is found in liquid form. Atmospheric air contains 0.16% of this 0.7% or 4,000 cubic miles of water which is 8 times the amount of water found in all the rivers of the world. Of the remaining 0.7%, 0.16% is found in the atmosphere; 0.8% is found in soil moisture; 1.4% is found in lakes; and 97.5% is found in groundwater.
“Nature maintains this ratio by accelerating or retarding the rates of evaporation and condensation, irrespective of the activities of man. Such evaporation and condensation is the means of regenerating wholesome water for all forms of life on earth.
“In addition, many of the world’s fresh water sources are contaminated. A total of 1.2 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water and 2.9 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation systems (World Health Organization). As a result, about 3.4 million people, mostly children, die each year from water-related illnesses. According to the United Nations, 31 countries in the world are currently facing water stress and over one billion people lack access to clean water. Half of humanity lacks basic sanitation services and water-borne pathogens kill 25 million people every year. Every 8 seconds, a child dies from drinking contaminated water. Furthermore, unless dramatic changes occur, soon, close to two-thirds of the world’s population will be living with freshwater shortages.
“There is a global need for cost effective and scalable sources of potable water. Current technologies require too much energy to operate efficiently and the resultant cost of the treated water puts these technologies out-of-reach for the majority in need. Desalination plants exist in rich nations such as the United States and Saudi Arabia but are not feasible everywhere. The lack of infrastructure in developing nations makes large plants with high-volume production impractical, as there is no way to transport the water efficiently.
“There is a need for small scalable water extraction devices that meet the needs of individuals, communities and industries. This invention responds to that need by providing an extraction unit that functions ‘off-the-grid’ to make clean pure water, anywhere where the need exists.
“The present invention is a device that extracts moisture vapour from atmospheric air for use as a fresh water source. The device may utilize the sun as the primary energy source thereby eliminating the need for costly fuels, hydro or battery power sources. The water collection device of the present invention provides flexibility over prior devices, allowing for productive installations in most regions of the world. As the water collection device’s preferred power source is solar energy, the amount of available power for the device increases as installations of the device are closer to the equator where there is more sunlight year round.
“The invention is designed to allow one small water cooler sized unit to provide cooking and drinking water for a family, simply by harvesting the water vapour from humid air. Private individuals, industries and communities could control their own water supply through the use of the device’s technology. It is also practical for many uses in domestic, commercial or military applications and offers ease of use and clean water of a highest quality anywhere, anytime. The modular design of these devices allow for increased capacity, simply by adding more modules.
“In addition to domestic use, larger units based upon the same basic technology are appropriate for other applications in which larger water supplies are required. For example, a 12 Volt compressor in the cooling system within the device, may be replaced with a larger 110 Volt compressor with the appropriately sized other components such as the evaporator and the condenser, and the unit will be capable of condensing larger quantities of water as electrical power is more readily available.
“The device’s solar water powered condenser technology may be applied to a variety of uses from residential to recreational and from commercial and agricultural to military and life saving in extreme water deprived regions of the world.
“This invention may be used for obtaining pure drinking water, for cooking purposes or for other household uses such as cleaning or bathing. The system may also be used on boats or in vacation areas, on camping trips, trekking, and places where drinking water delivery systems are not developed. The unit may be used to produce fresh water for bottling purposes or for large commercial applications such as restaurants, offices, schools, hotel lobbies, cruise ships, hospitals and other public buildings. The system may also be used in playing fields and sports arenas.
“Additionally, the device may be used to augment the supply of water used to irrigate selected crops using micro or drip irrigation systems. These systems deliver the right amount of water at the right time, directly to the roots of plants. As well, the technology may be used to for bottled water production or virtually any other application where water is needed.
“The proposed technology provides an opportunity to end much suffering. The death and misery that flow from unsafe water is overwhelming. More than 5,000 children die daily from diseases caused by consuming water and food contaminated with bacteria, according to a recent study released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
“Currently, 1.2 billion people have no access to safe drinking water and that number is increasing steadily, with forecasts of a potential 2.3 billion (or one-third of the earth’s population) without access to safe water by 2025 (World Health Organization’s statistics from World Commission on Water for the 21st Century). These at-risk children and their families are not restricted to rural areas in undeveloped nations. ‘Millions of poor urban dwellers have been left without water supply and sanitation in the rapidly growing cities of the developing world. The poor are often forced to pay exorbitant prices for untreated water, much of it deadly,’ reports William Cosgrove, director of World Water Vision, Paris. The device, according to the invention, can relieve much of this suffering.
“A rapid increase in water demand, particularly for industrial and household use, is being driven by population growth and socioeconomic development. If this growth trend continues, consumption of water by the industrial sector will be double by 2025 (WMO). Urban population growth will increase the demand for household water, but poorly planned water and sanitation services will lead to a breakdown in services for hundreds of millions of people. Many households will remain unconnected to piped water.
“The present invention offers a practical and affordable solution to many of the world’s water supply problems.
“It should be noted that while much of the prior art is based on simply extracting what can be extracted from the air using a simplistic and uncontrolled process, some water will be extracted, but with little concern for efficiency. This lack of efficiency can be explained by understanding the different types of heat that are used in the process of extracting water from air.
“The heat that is used to bring air temperature down to the dew point is ‘specific heat’. The heat used to bring the temperature of air below the dew point is ‘latent heat’ and represents a dynamic variable in the condensation process. The optimal condensation process uses as little ‘latent heat’ as is possible.
“The dew point of air is the temperature at which the water vapour in the air becomes saturated and condensation begins.
“For reference, specific heat means the amount of heat, measured in calories, required to raise the temperature of one gram of a substance by one Celsius degree.
“Latent heat means: The quantity of beat absorbed or released by a substance undergoing a change of state, such as ice changing to water or water to steam, at constant temperature and pressure. This is also called heat of transformation.
“In the optimal condensation process if too much air is drawn through the system, the system cannot transfer enough of the total volume of air to a temperature below the dew point, therefore resulting in poor performance from the system.
“If not enough air is drawn through the device the air temperature will drop below the dew point but as there is less air moving through the system, there is respectively less water available to be drawn from that air. As well, other issues that arise when too little air is moved through the system such as freezing and wasted energy in the overuse of ‘latent’ beat. Therefore there is an optimal quantity of air that travels through the system based upon a number of variables and that optimal quantity of air will change as the other variables change. It is therefore necessary to have a system that is monitored and reacts to the changes in temperature and humidity so as to ensure ongoing optimal operation.”
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors’ summary information for this patent application: “The water condenser according to the present invention is a device that may use various input source energy supplies to create a condensation process that extracts potable water from atmospheric air.
“In one embodiment the water condenser is portable and the refrigeration cycle may be driven by a 12 Volt compressor that allows for an efficient condensation process for creating a potable water supply. The input source energy for the compressor may be supplied from many sources such as a wind turbine, batteries, or a photovoltaic panel. Additionally the design may be fitted with transformers to accommodate other power supplies such as 110 Volt or 220 Volt systems when such electrical power is available, or the device may be sized or scaled up so as to accommodate such electrical power sources directly. For example, the device might use a 110 Volt compressor and simply have the device’s other components scaled-up to accommodate the larger compressor.
“Rather than filtering water with conventional systems such as reverse osmosis or carbon filtration, the device filters the atmospheric air then provides a condensation process that lowers the temperature of that air to below dew point of the air flow. The air is then exposed to an adequate sized, cooled surface area upon which to condense, and the water is harvested as gravity pulls the water into a storage compartment.
“The disclosed invention creates a high quality water supply through a process of filtering air rather than water. The device may be fitted with a screen to keep out larger contaminates. Downstream of the screen may be a pre-filter. The pre-filter may be removable for cleaning. Downstream of the pre-filter may be a high quality filter such as a HEPA filter to ensure the air flow is pure and depleted of contaminates that might lower the quality of water that is created by the condensation process downstream of the air filtration. Rather than using a capillary tube metering mechanism for feeding refrigerant fluid into the refrigerant evaporator, such as is normally used for smaller refrigeration systems, the device according to the present invention, may be fitted with an automatic suction valve so as to allow for the device to adapt to varying loads created by different environments. One object is that the condensation process is to provide efficient processing of atmospheric, that is ambient air. Thus the intake air flow downstream of the air filtration may be pre-cooled, prior to entering a refrigerant evaporator used to condense moisture out of the intake air flow, by passing the intake air flow through an air-to-air beat exchanger, itself cooled by cooled air leaving the evaporator. That is, the incoming air flow is cooled before it enters the refrigerant evaporator section by passing it in close proximity in the heat exchanger to the cooled air that is leaving the refrigerant evaporator. Air-to-air heat exchangers may be constructed to be very efficient, reaching 80% efficiency, and therefore reducing the temperature of the incoming air flow towards the dew point prior to the air flow entering the refrigerant evaporator, reduces the temperature differential, or temperature drop that must obtained by passing the air over cooled surfaces in the refrigerant evaporator to obtain the dew point temperature, and thus may have a significant impact upon the efficiency of the condensation process and thus the efficiency of the device. For example the device may thus be optimized to increase the air flow rate and still be able to reduce the air flow temperature to the dew point, or the device will be able to handle very hot inflow temperatures and still reduce the dew point temperature of a reasonable air flow volume over time so as to harvest a useful amount of moisture. Sensors provide temperature, for example ambient, inlet temperatures, refrigerant evaporator inlet and refrigerant evaporator outlet temperatures, humidity, and fan speed or other air flow rate indicators to the process to optimize and balance those variables to maximize harvested moisture volume. Embodiments of the present invention may thus include varying the flow of air through the system such that the device has a prescribed amount of air passing through the refrigerant evaporator and a different flow of air passing through the refrigerant condenser of the corresponding refrigerant circuit, allowing for optimized function.
“In addition to the benefits described above, the water condenser may add additional value in further processing. For example, the harvested water may be further processed so as to increase the value of the water, by adding back inorganic minerals missing or only present in small amounts in the water, so as to accommodate the perceived value of these minerals to the consumer. This process may also add organic minerals back into the water which are of benefit to the human body, rather than simply adding back inorganic minerals that the human body may not be able to properly assimilate.
“There are numerous means by which to put back minerals and trace elements into the harvested water. For example, a small compartment with a hinged door, allowing it to be easily accessed, may be provided between a drip plate at the bottom of the refrigerant evaporator and a downstream water storage container, so as to have all harvested water pass through this chamber. A provided mineral puck may inserted into this chamber by a user so that harvested water drips over the mineral puck, causing the puck to dissolve and thereby adding desired elements to the harvested water. The user thereby controls re-mineralization of the harvested water. Additional health remedies may also be added to the harvested water such as colloidal silver, water oxygenation additives, negatively ionized hydrogen ions or other health enhancing products.
“In summary, the water condenser, according to the present invention, may be characterized in one aspect as including at least two cooling stages, or first cooling a primary or first air flow flowing through the upstream or first stage of the two stages using an air-to-air heat exchanger, and feeding the primary air flow, once cooled in the heat exchanger, of one first stage in a refrigerant evaporator wherein the primary air flow is further cooled in the refrigerant evaporator to its dew point so as to condense moisture in the primary air flow onto cooled surfaces of the refrigerant evaporator, whereupon the primary air flow, upon exiting the refrigerant evaporator of the second stage, enters the air-to-air heat exchanger of the first stage to cool the incoming primary air flow, thereby reducing the temperature differential between the temperature of the incoming primary air flow entering the first stage and the dew point temperature of the primary air flow in the second stage. A secondary or auxiliary air flow, which in one embodiment may be mixed or joined (collectively referred to herein as being mixed) with the primary air flow, downstream of the first and second stages so as to increase the volume of air flow entering a refrigerant condenser in the refrigerant circuit corresponding to the refrigerant evaporator of the second stage. Thus if the primary or first air flow has a corresponding first mass flow rate, and the secondary or auxiliary air flow has a corresponding second mass flow rate, then the mass flow rate of the combined air flow entering the refrigerant condenser is the sum of the first and second mass flow rates, that is greater than the first mass flow rate in the two cooling stages. The two cooling stages may be contained in one or separate housings as long as the primary air flow is in fluid communication between the two stages. One housing includes a first air intake for entry of the primary air flow. The first air intake is mounted to the air-to-air heat exchanger.
“The air-to-air heat exchanger has a pre-refrigeration set of air conduits cooperating at their upstream end in fluid communication with the first air intake. The first air intake thus provides for intake of the primary air flow into the pre-refrigeration set of air conduits. The air-to-air heat exchanger also has a post-refrigeration set of conduits arranged relative to the pre-refrigeration set of air conduits for heat transfer between the pre-refrigeration set of air conduits and the post- refrigeration set of air conduits.
“A first refrigeration or cooling unit (hereinafter collectively a refrigeration unit) such as the refrigerant evaporator cooperates with the pre-refrigeration set of air conduits for passage of the primary air flow from a downstream end of the pre-refrigeration set of conduits into an upstream end of the first refrigeration unit. The first refrigeration unit includes first refrigerated or cooled (herein collectively or alternatively referred to as refrigerated) surfaces, for example one or more cooled plates, over which the primary air flow passes as it flows from the upstream end of the first refrigeration unit to the downstream end of the first refrigeration unit.
“The already pre-cooled primary air flow is further cooled in the first refrigeration unit below a dew point of the primary air flow so as to commence condensation of moisture in the primary air flow onto the refrigerated surfaces for gravity-assisted collection of the moisture into a moisture collector, for example a drip late or pan mounted under or in a lower part of the housing. The downstream end of the first refrigeration unit cooperates with, for passage of the primary air flow into, an upstream end of the post-refrigeration set of air conduits, for example to then enter the air-to-air heat exchanger so as to pre-cool the primary air flow before the primary air flow engages the first refrigeration unit. Because of pre-cooling by the heat exchanger, condensate may be collected with minimal power requirements. A second air-to-air heat exchanger may further increase system performance. Collectively the pre-refrigeration and post-refrigeration sets of air conduits form the first cooling stage, and collectively the plate or plates of the refrigerant evaporator form the second cooling stage. An air-to-water heat exchanger may be provided cooperating with the air-to-air heat exchanger for cooling the primary air flow wherein the primary air flow is passed through the air-to-water heat exchanger and the cold moisture from the moisture collector is simultaneously passed through the air-to-water heat exchanger so that the moisture cools the first air flow. The air-to-water heat exchanger may be either upstream or downstream of the air-to-air heat exchanger along the primary air flow.
“In one embodiment a manifold or air plenum having opposite upstream and downstream ends cooperates in fluid communication with the downstream end of the post-refrigeration set of conduits. That is, the upstream end of the air plenum cooperates with the downstream end of the post-refrigeration set of conduits so that the primary air flow flows into the air plenum at the upstream end of the plenum. The plenum has a secondary or auxiliary air intake into the plenum for mixing of the auxiliary air flow with, or addition of the auxiliary air flow in parallel to, the primary air flow in the plenum so as to provide the combined mass flow rate into the refrigerant condenser, to extract heat from the refrigerant in the refrigerant circuit to re-condense the refrigerant for delivery under pressure to the refrigerant evaporator in the second cooling stage, the refrigerant pressurized between the refrigerant evaporator and condenser by a refrigerant compressor (herein referred to as the compressor). Thus the downstream end of the plenum cooperates in fluid communication with the refrigerant condenser. An air flow primer mover such as a fan or blower (herein collectively a fan) urges the primary air flow through the two cooling stages. In embodiments wherein both the primary and auxiliary air flows are directed into the refrigerant condenser (herein also referred to as the combined air flow embodiment), a single air flow prime mover, such as a fan on the refrigerant condenser may be employed, otherwise, where only the auxiliary air flow flows through the refrigerant condenser, separate air flow prime movers are provided for the primary and auxiliary air flows.
“In the combined air flow embodiment, a selectively actuable air flow metering valve, such as a selectively actuable damper, may be mounted in cooperation with the auxiliary air intake for selectively controlling the volume and flow rate of the auxiliary air flow passing into the plenum. An automated actuator may cooperate with the metering valve for automated actuation of the metering valve between open and closed positions of the valve according to at least one environmental condition indicative of at least moisture content in the primary and/or auxiliary air flows (herein ‘and/or’ collectively referred to by the Boolean operator ‘or’). As an example, the automated actuator may be a temperature sensitive bi-metal actuator or an actuator controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC); for example the automated actuator may include a processor cooperating with at least one sensor, the at least one sensor for sensing the at least one environmental condition and communicating environmental data corresponding to the at least one environmental condition from the at least one sensor to the processor or PLC. The at least one environmental condition may be chosen from the group consisting of air temperature, humidity, barometric air pressure, air density, or air mass flow rate. The air temperature conditioner may include the temperature of the ambient air at the primary air flow intake, and the temperature of the primary air flows entering and leaving the second cooling stage.
“The processor regulates the first and/or second air flows, for example regulates the amount of cooling in the refrigeration unit, so that the air temperature in the first refrigeration unit is at or below the dew point of the primary air flow, but above freezing. The processor may calculate the dew point for the primary air flow based on the at least one environmental condition sensed by the at least one sensor.
“The air flow prime mover may be selectively controllable and the processor may regulate the primary, auxiliary or combined air flow so as to minimize the air temperature of the primary air flow from dropping too far below the dew point for the primary air flow to minimize condensation within the heat exchanger, and so as to optimize or maximize the volume of moisture condensation in the refrigeration unit.
“At least one filter may be mounted in cooperation with the water condenser housing. For example, at least one air filter such as a HEPA filter may be mounted in the flow path of the first air flow. A water filter may be provided for filtering water in the moisture collector. The air filters may include an ultra-violet radiation lamp mounted in proximity to, so as to cooperate with, the primary air flow path or the moisture collector. For example the air filter and the water filter may include a common ultra-violet radiation lamp mounted in proximity to so as to cooperate with both the primary air flow path and the moisture collector.
“In upstream-to-downstream order, the first refrigeration unit may be adjacent the heat exchanger, the heat exchanger may be adjacent the plenum, the plenum may be adjacent the refrigerant condenser, and the refrigerant condenser may be adjacent the air flow prime mover. These elements may be inter-leaved in closely adjacent array. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
“FIG. 1 is, in perspective view, one embodiment of the water condenser according to the present invention.
“FIG. 2 is a sectional view along line 2-2 in FIG. 1.
“FIG. 2A is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 2.
“FIG. 2B is a sectional view along line 2b-2b in FIG. 2.
“FIG. 3 is a sectional view along line 3-3 in FIG. 1.
“FIG. 3A is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 3.
“FIG. 3B is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 3A.
“FIG. 3C is, in perspective view, the internal air conduits of the upstream side of manifold of the water condenser of FIG. 1.
“FIG. 4 is a sectional view along line 4-4 in FIG. 1.
“FIG. 5 is the view of FIG. 3 in an alternative embodiment wherein the air flow manifold feeding the refrigerant condenser is partitioned between the primary and auxiliary air flows.
“FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic view of the pre-cooling and condenser cycle and closed loop refrigerant circuit according to the embodiment of FIG. 1.
“FIG. 6A is the view of FIG. 6 showing an air-to-water heat exchanger downstream of the air-to- air heat exchanger.
“FIG. 6B is the view of FIG. 6 showing an air-to-water heat exchanger upstream of the air-to-air heat exchanger.
“FIG. 7 is, in partially cut away front right side perspective view, an alternative embodiment of the present invention wherein two separate fans draw the primary and auxiliary air flows through the evaporator and condenser respectively.
“FIG. 8 is, in partially cut away front left side perspective view, the embodiment of FIG. 7.
“FIG. 9 is, in partially cut away rear perspective view, the embodiment of FIG. 7.
“FIG. 10 is a partially cut away rear perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 7.
“FIG. 10A is a sectional view along line 10a-10a in FIG. 10.
“FIG. 11 is, in partially cut away perspective view a further alternative embodiment of the present invention wherein the primary air flow passes through an air-to-water heat exchanger.
“FIG. 11A is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the air-two-water heater exchanger of FIG. 11.
“FIG. 12 is a graph of Temperature vs. Time showing the interrelation of Evaporator Temperature, Processed Air Temperature, Relative Humidity (RH) %, Dew Point Temperature, and Environmental Temperature in the device of FIG. 1.
“FIG. 13 is a block diagram showing an embodiment of control system for a water condenser according to the invention.
“FIG. 14 is a block diagram showing an alternative embodiment of a control system according to the invention.
“FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a sensor used in the water condenser according to the invention.
“FIG. 16 is a front perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the invention.
“FIG. 17 is a front perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 16, wherein the cover has been removed.
“FIG. 18 is a front view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17.
“FIG. 19 is a top view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17.
“FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a portion of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17 showing the placement of the condenser relative to the condenser fan and compressor.
“FIG. 21 is a perspective view of an evaporator according to the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 17;
“FIG. 21A is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 21.
“FIG. 22 is a perspective view of a portion of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17.
“FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a heat exchange system according to the embodiment of FIG. 17.
“FIG. 23A is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 23.
“FIG. 24 is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17.
“FIG. 25 is a partial cutaway side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 17 showing the air flow.”
For additional information on this patent application, see: Ritchey, Jonathan G. Water Condenser. U.S. Patent Application Serial Number 627951, filed September 26, 2012, and posted June 20, 2013. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=6479&p=130&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20130613.PD.&OS=PD/20130613&RS=PD/20130613