EU funds help: Unique device can produce water in a desert
20. 12. 2023
The KARBOX company in Hořice, Czech Republic, has developed a unique mobile device EWA (Emergency Water from Air), able to extract water from dry desert air. KARBOX, which is part of the industrial technology holding Czechoslovak Group (CSG), has developed a significant innovation with the support of a grant from EU funds. The device fulfils the dream of many travellers, while also offering a wide range of uses in everyday life.
Hořice - Czech Republic - KARBOX, a manufacturer of shipping container conversions and special vehicle superstructures, cooperated with researchers from the University Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings of the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague to produce this equipment. The unique device EWA can extract 25 to 30 litres of water per day from air in very dry environments, making it many times more powerful than the only technologically similar product from Source Global.
"EWA is another important product of CSG holding companies, besides the already well-known hydrogen-powered Tatra truck prototype. The focus on innovation is one of the main directions of our group strategy. The goal is to gain technological superiority in the industries in which we operate, or at least to remain competitive in global markets. That's why we are investing significant resources in innovation and, in addition, we are developing cooperation with an increasing number of universities and research centres," says Bohuslav Přikryl, Vice President for Development and Innovation at CSG Aerospace.
AWARDS AT THE EXPO
The EWA device is derived from the larger but similarly functioning SAWER (Solar Air Water Earth Resources) product, for which the Czech Republic received one of the Best Innovation Awards at the Dubai EXPO last year. While the dimensions of SAWER are adapted to the standard ISO 1C container (with volume of 36,000 litres), the EWA is significantly smaller. It is a cube with a side of 120 cm on a chassis driven by an electric motor. It can obtain the electricity needed for propulsion and for extracting water from the air either from the grid or from solar panels.
The work related to the transformation of the larger device into a smaller one was carried out under a project co-financed by the EU. The EU contributed almost CZK 20 million and the company invested another CZK 10 million from its own resources.
"We tested the device in Australia, a continent largely covered with desert where small villages or farms in remote places in the outback deal with water shortage on a daily basis. For a comparison, a litre of bottled drinking water costs five Australian dollars; EWA produces a litre of water for one dollar. This makes Australia an important potential market for this device. There, we also verified by laboratory tests that the water produced is suitable for direct consumption and meets the parameters of water for infants. We even partnered with a local dealer in the country," says Miroslav Nosek, KARBOX project manager.
OTHER POTENTIAL BUYERS
Apart from Australia, other potential areas of interest include the Middle East, desert areas in South America or Africa. In the cooperation, CTU will act as researcher and developer, while KARBOX - as an experienced shipping container manufacturer and developer - will be responsible for production, global marketing and distribution. KARBOX is currently working on upgrading the development project to a commercial solution, which will enable the start of prototype production.
"We are currently presenting the EWA device to potential customers, i.e. communities living in low-humidity areas, soldiers, firefighters and rescue workers. We participate in exhibitions and trade fairs and undergo tests. Thanks to our business contacts, we communicate, for example, with the NSPA, NATO's procurement agency, with the armies of NATO member states, including special forces, and with the help of Czech economic diplomacy, we penetrate suitable countries where our product could realize its potential," says Miroslav Nosek.
The device is already patent protected and will be manufactured at the KARBOX facility in Přelouč near Pardubice. It does not have to serve abroad only. It can also be useful, for example, in situations where water in natural sources has been contaminated or infrastructure has been damaged. The potential of the EWA product, and especially the technological innovation it brings, is very broad indeed. One of the main reasons for this is that all similar products known to date are primarily designed for humid environments, whereas EWA can also extract water from the atmosphere in dry and hot desert and semi-desert environments.
"We are investing significant resources in innovation and, in addition, we are developing cooperation with an increasing number of universities and research centres." Bohuslav Přikryl, CSG Aerospace.
THE UNIQUE DEVICE WAS CREATED THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF EU FUNDS. EWA, a unique device developed jointly by scientists from the Czech Technical University and engineers from KARBOX, could help people who have to live in the desert or soldiers and rescuers. EU funds provided almost CZK 20 million for this development, and thanks to the support, a working prototype was created. It has undergone demanding tests in Australia, where it met all expectations, and should soon be produced in East Bohemia.
Photo: archive of KARBOX, Jiří Šmeral