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MIT's prototype water harvesting device. Photo: Alina LaPotin

Researchers developed a workable, solar-powered device that can extract drinkable water directly from the air, even in desert regions.

Why it matters: If the technology can be made commercially viable, it could help alleviate water scarcity in some of the world's driest regions.

What's happening: Researchers at MIT and several other institutions published a paper earlier this week describing how they were able to significantly boost the output of a prototype water-harvesting device.

  • The original design harnessed temperature differences within the device to draw in moisture from the air at night and release it the next day. But its utility was limited because it required specialized and expensive materials called metal organic frameworks.
  • The new design adds a second stage and makes use of a more common material called zeolite, doubling its capacity to generate water.

Details: While other harvesting technologies that can draw water from fog or dew exist, they generally require humidity levels of at least 50%, if not much higher.

  • The new design, by contrast, can work with humidity levels as low as 20%, good enough to operate on an average day in a desert city like Phoenix.

The catch: Even the improved system can still only produce 0.8 liters of water per square meter per day, while humans need at least 2.5 liters per day to survive.

Go deeper

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder charged in Flint water probe

Rick Snyder. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in an investigation into the Flint water crisis, according to Genessee County District Court records and multiple local reports on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Flint saw its drinking water contaminated with high levels of lead in 2014, spurring a public health disaster. The lead-contaminated water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed at least 12 people.

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.