A team of scientists, from MIT and University of California, Berkeley has created a breakthrough device that can pull fresh water out of air using ambient sunlight, even in places with humidity as low as 20%.

The device, named as 'solar-powered harvester' uses a special type of material known as a metal-organic framework (MOF), and can harvest water from air. It is currently a prototype, but has passed tests in real-world conditions.

"This is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity," says Omar Yaghi from UC Berkeley regarding the new device. "There is no other way to do that right now, except by using extra energy. Your electric dehumidifier at home 'produces' very expensive water," he adds.

According to researchers, sunlight heats the material, releasing the water vapor, which then condenses to produce water. During tests, the device managed to pull 2.8 litres of water from air, with humidity of 20 to 30%, in 12 hours using 1kg of MOF. The team says the device could easily be scaled up to produce enough water to meet the daily needs of a household.

Millions of people, especially in dry and arid regions, are currently experiencing a shortage of clean water. Scientists estimate that about worldwide 13,000 trillion litres of water is present in the air around us and this device could potentially be used to extract the same.

"There is a lot of potential for scaling up the amount of water that is being harvested. It is just a matter of further engineering now," says Yaghi about making the device's use more wide scale in future.

The full research has been published in the journal Science.