Czech project to make water from dry air wins prize at Dubai Expo

Over 1 million people visited the Czech pavilion at Expo 2020 in the six months it was open.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 18.04.2022 10:24:00 (updated on 18.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

A Czech exhibit earned a prize for innovation at Expo 2020, which ended recently in Dubai. The Expo, originally slated for 2020, opened on Oct. 1, 2021, and ran for six months.

The UAE Innovates awards were given out in three areas: opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. The Czech pavilion’s S.A.W.E.R system, which extracts water from dry desert air, won for “Best Innovation that Creates Opportunity,” sharing the prize with Tunisia’s project for an autonomous robot.

Projects from the Netherlands and Italy won for sustainability, while Saudi Arabia and Sweden won for mobility.

The UAE Innovates awards are given by the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation, a state-run agency of the United Arab Emirates. The exceptional edition of the awards at the expo was intended to support, promote and encourage innovative practices, celebrate innovators, and introduce their success stories globally.

The S.A.W.E.R. (Solar Air Water Earth Resource) project has the potential to turn a desert into a garden by extracting water from the dry desert air. This water was enriched with nutrients and used to irrigate a garden surrounding the Czech pavilion in Dubai.

Czech pavilion in Dubai. Photo: Facebook, CZ EXPO Dubai 2020
Czech pavilion in Dubai. Photo: Facebook, CZ EXPO Dubai 2020

The technology was developed by the University Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings (UCEEB) and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) in cooperation with the Botanical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

While previous technologies could extract about 10 liters of water per day from desert air, the S.A.W.E.R. system produces hundreds of liters per day and its energy needs are fully covered by solar power. It also has two by-products – hot water used for showering and cool air used for air-conditioning.

UCEEB director Robert Jára said winning the award provided great satisfaction after the challenges associated with developing the technology and ensuring its presentation. "Without the Dubai Expo, the S.A.W.E.R. technology would not have come into being,” Jára said.

The fact that the Czech Republic has received such a prestigious award at the end of the six-month exhibition is proof to me that Czech science still has a global reputation, " Jára added.

UCEEB’s Jakub Dytrich said the reward reflected a lot of hard work. “It is clear, that even a small research center in the Czech Republic can shine on a global scale. Czech science – and I don’t only mean S.A.W.E.R. – is becoming one of the best again,” Dytrich said.

“The development of the entire system … was by no means easy, and it is still not finished. The device, which was originally meant to produce 500 liters of water per day in the Czech pavilion, made over 1,300 liters [on March 29],” Dytrich added.

Exterior of S.A.W.E.R. Photo:
Exterior of S.A.W.E.R. Photo:

The Botanical Institute developed a system using microalgae to add nutrients so the enriched water could be added below the surface level to create a hospitable environment for plants

At the end of the Expo, ČVUT signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai. A container-size version of S.A.W.E.R. now creates water on RIT's Dubai campus. Both universities intend to cooperate on the further development of the technology and on the extraction of water from the air in the countries of the Gulf.

Other technologies at the Czech pavilion also attracted attention during the Expo, including a robotic arm from the Brno University of Technology (VUTB) that creates construction material from a biopolymer made of waste fat and desert sand. VUTB also showcased technology for reclaiming plastics from the ocean.

Czech innovations in energy were represented by a scale model of a salt-cooled nuclear mini-reactor developed by Research Center Řež. It works in conjunction with battery storage from the Fenix Group.

The Czech pavilion also showcased hydroponic plant-growing technology from the startup GreenTech. Hydroponic containers can grow plants in any climactic condition. The plants for example can be used in local cuisine.

“We were able to sell the entire exhibit to the renowned Radisson BLU hotel chain, right in Dubai,” GreenTech director Dmitry Lipovsky said. The company also found a partner to help with sales and marketing activities in the United Arab Emirates.

During the six months of the Dubai Expo, 23 million visitors attended the exhibition center and 1.3 million people found their way to the Czech pavilion. Most of them, in addition to viewing the exhibitions, also sat in the pavilion's restaurant, serving Czech beer, and a presentation of traditional Czech food.

The next expo is will take place in Osaka, Japan, in 2025. The Czech Republic's participation will be decided by the government during 2022.

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