Questions for ‘This sun-powered system delivers energy as it pulls water from the air’  

an illustration showing a sunny day, a field of solar panels, and a small covered green space watered by the water harvesting units

This artist’s drawing shows what a new water- and energy-production system might look like. Its solar panels generate power as a water harvesting unit pulls moisture from the air. A roof shades irrigated crops from the hot sun.

R. Li et al/Cell Repts Phys. Sci. 2022 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

To accompany This sun-powered system delivers energy as it pulls water from the air’ 


Before Reading:

  1. Imagine a desert. Describe it in two or three sentences. Use that description to compare the challenges of living in a desert environment to living in a temperate-forest landscape. In your opinion, which environment do you think would be more challenging? What types of resources might be harder to come by for people living in a desert? How would a lack of those resources cause problems for those people?
  2. How much water in liters (or quarts) are people recommended to drink every day? If you aren’t sure, then do a quick internet search. Do you think you drink too much water, too little or just enough? When you’re thirsty, where do you usually get a drink? For example, are you likely to go to the kitchen faucet? Or grab bottled water? Or maybe you get much of your water from sports drinks or sodas? Where did the water initially come from in that soda, kitchen faucet or whatever you answered? If you aren’t sure, take your best guess.

During Reading:

  1. What about Peng Wang’s childhood inspired him to help develop this new system?
  2. What type of material did Wang and his team put on the backs of their solar panels? What does the story mention as two potential uses for the water collected from this system?
  3. Wang and his team tested their system in Saudi Arabia. How much water in liters did each square meter of solar panel collect? 
  4. The new KAUST system doesn’t get water from a river or lake. From what unusual water source does the new system derive its water? Does most of this collection occur during the day or at night? What changes occur from day to night that allows this collection of water? (Hint: Think climate-related factors.)
  5. What kind of crop did Wang’s team grow when testing its new system? How many seeds did they plant? For every 20 seeds, how many grew into plants?
  6. While the new system does collect water, Jackson Lord thinks of that as a bonus to just use when needed. What other benefit does Lord see as the primary one for this system? 

After Reading:

  1. How many of these modified solar panels would a family of five need to provide drinking water for everyone? Reference the results from this study to support your calculations. How might the family place these solar panels around their home to save space and maximize the panel’s usefulness? Create a simple map, or landscape drawing of a five-family home in a desert setting. Use your calculations to add solar panels to this family home. Where around the house would you place them? Be sure to draw the correct number of solar panels as per your calculations. What benefits other than water could the family gain from these panels?
  2. List three or four countries or regions that you think would benefit most from this technology. Look over your list. In what ways are these regions similar? What climate or environmental factors did you consider when coming up with your list? What economic (financial) factors did you consider? If you didn’t think about these factors, then do so now, and list your answers.