Airo Bottles By Fontus: Water Out of Thin Air
You don’t have to be an avid reader of Jack London or any other Naturalist literature to know that in the age-old battle of man versus nature, it never ends well for man. The cold, the sea, the lack of viable sustenance: man succumbs to it all, and nature simply exhales and waits for the next fool who wants to test his mettle. However, man is no dummy, and we’ve made quite a few strides to help our own cause of self preservation. Most recently, Fontus, a start up company out of Austria, has created the Airo – a bottle that quite literally creates water — totally potable, live-saving water to the tune of half a litre an hour — out of thin air.
It’s being billed as the world’s first self-filling water bottle, and while it may sound too good to be true, but it’s 100% real. It’s also, much to no one’s great surprise, an enormous crowdfunding hit, recently pulling in almost $346,000 USD on Indiegogo.
Miracle of Science?
The concept behind the bottle by Fontus is actually simple: there’s water in the air, right? Whether the humidity is high or low, there’s still some amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. Harness that vapour and condense it, and you’ve got water that you can drink.
The engineering is a bit more complicated, but still easy enough to understand. The bottle has a solar-powered fan on it, which pulls air into the bottle’s condensation chamber. Once there, the air is cooled to turn the water vapour into liquid water, and that water is collected in the bottle’s main section, where it can be stored until it’s consumed. Again, with a Fontus bottle, air and sunlight are all that is needed to create water that you can drink.
These bottles by Fontus offer other advantages as well. For starters, there’s no concern about throwing away water bottles. The materials are also lightweight, so that all you’re hauling is the weight of the water it’s pulled out of the air. The design of the prototype is attractive, and there’s even a chamber at the bottom for an optional mineral capsule for those who prefer not to drink distilled water on its own.
Airo and Ryde
Fontus is developing not one, but two of its self-filling water bottles. The Airo is a standalone bottle, and is best suited for hikers, campers, and anyone who’s out and about with a backpack. The bottle can actually clip onto a pack as you travel about, filling up all the while. Or, if you’re resting for a while, it can sit and soak up the sun to fill with water.
The Ryde bottle is specifically designed for cyclists; it can clip onto a bike, and it doesn’t have fan on it. Instead, the Ryde uses the air stream created by the motion of a bicycle to pull air into the condensation chambers. Because it’s lacking the fan, the Ryde will actually cost less than the Airo when the bottles go on sale to the public.
As you might imagine, the early response to these bottles by Fontus has been largely hopeful and positive. The first design of the Fontus bottle, made when Fontus inventor Kristof Retezár was still in school in 2014, was a finalist for the Dyson Award for outstanding student design.
Although it did not ultimately win, the attention that comes with being shortlisted for such a prestigious prize gave Retezár some much-needed momentum for the project and press from places like the Huffington Post.
More recently, there’s been a fair amount written about Retezár and Fontus. A recent write-up on Smithsonian.com was full of praise for the bottles, as was an article on Tech Insider. Gizmag was also quite taken with the idea of the Fontus bottles and was hopeful that the concept could be brought to fruition.
Remember the part about the Fontus bottles seeming too good to be true? Yeah, well, that wasn’t entirely hyperbole. As it turns out, there are quite a few concerns about the ability of the individual bottles’ small solar panels to condense as much water as Retezár claims they can. It’s a nice idea, most of the discussion concedes, but they claim that it ultimately won’t work.
The accusations started this spring, and they claim that the Fontus bottles’ components simply won’t do what they claim. They say that the extraction and condensation device aren’t capable of pulling water out of the air at anywhere near the speed that Fontus claims, and that the device’s solar panel isn’t anywhere near big enough to generate enough power for the bottles’ functions.
The chatter seems to have started with some posts on metabunk.org by individuals concerned about the questionable science behind the thing.
Then, a YouTube video was posted with all sorts of reasons why these bottles won’t do what they claim. Soon after, Digital Trends updated a previously positive article with this new information, even adding in the title that “It Probably Doesn’t Work.”
Reaction from Fontus
Since the Fontus Airo and Ryde bottles are still in the functional prototype stages, according to the company’s Indiegogo page, it’s too soon to tell.
The science behind the debunkers’ claims is sound, but then again, no one’s actually seen or used one of Retezár’s creations. Plus, the company has already received funding from the Austrian government.
It’s one thing to trick a bunch of crowdfunders, but it’s quite another to scam the government of your own country. It should also be noted that Retezár has refuted all of the negative comments made on the Fontus Indiegogo page.
So, raise an eyebrow right now if you’d like, but you may want to wait until April 2017, when Fontus claims that the first bottles will be available to the public, before coming to any conclusions about this product.
Assuming the Fontus bottles actually do what they claim to do, this technology could prove to be a real lifesaver. The obvious application is what the company is already promoting: a continual source of fresh drinking water for people who enjoy the great outdoors. But of course, there are bigger uses.
For starters, in countries where clean water is scarce or difficult to find, or where the infrastructure for storing drinking water is strained or nonexistent, the technology behind Fontus bottles could create a continual water source.
It could also be used in disaster areas where municipal services have been compromised; currently, truckloads of bottled water are donated and brought in, but with this condensation technology, people would have a source of water, and the trucks and donations could be used to rebuild what was destroyed.
Consider places devastated by earthquakes or hurricanes, or even places like Flint, Michigan, where the city has been dealing with a tremendous and far-reaching lead contamination problem.
Fontus bottles could provide water and reduce the urgency with which a solution would need to be implemented, allowing officials to create a viable way to remedy the problem rather than apply quick fixes that won’t stand in the long run.
Price and Availability of Fontus
As mentioned above, the Fontus Airo and Ryde are currently in the functional prototype stage, and the company just closed their Indiegogo effort. The goal is to get the bottles manufactured and in the hands of initial backers by April of 2017.
As for price, well, the Airo and Ryde bottles aren’t exactly cheap. Currently, you can pre-order them on the Indiegogo page at $250 USD (about £177) for the Airo and the earlybird price of $165 (£117) for the Ryde; once those sell out, the non-earlybird Ryde price is $225 (£160). According to Retezár, though, the goal is to ultimately get the price under $100 USD (£70) per bottle.
We’re looking forward to see if this project really does come to fruition and creates a viable source of drinking water. The recreational use of them will be helpful, but the practical implications here could be lifesaving.