Obtaining clean drinking water is one of the fundamental challenges of survival, and it's a problem faced by millions of people in third-world countries each day. Many people don't have access to clean running water, and as a result they suffer and die from bacteria, parasites, and other waterborne pathogens.

Scientists have been working hard to develop water purification technology to solve this problem, but it remains a widespread issue. However, one recent invention appears to use an ingenious way to extract and capture water from the air we breathe. It's called the Fontus self-filling water bottle, and it was invented by Kristof Retezár, an Industrial Designer from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

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An initial prototype of Fontus Ryde, designed to be mounted on a bicycle.

While contemplating potential clean water sources, Retezár realized we are literally surrounded by invisible water vapor in the form of humidity. This led him to design a device called the Fontus Ryde that mounts to a bicycle and condenses humidity from the air using energy from integrated solar panels.

This invention was launched in 2014, and went on to win Retezár a James Dyson Foundation award and generate significant media attention.

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An illustration that shows how the Fontus system works.

More recently, the Ryde design has been revised and improved, and Retezár has also begun working on a stand-alone bottle known as the Airo. The Fontus Airo includes a larger, removable solar panel sleeve that claims to allow it to generate enough energy to condense water while stationary.

Fontus self filling water bottle

The revised Fontus Ryde design, now with a sleek black exterior and larger solar panels.

Fontus's web site claims the water bottles “literally never run dry” and can harvest “up to 0.8L of water in an hour's time under the right climatic conditions”.

Speaking of climatic conditions, the system would work best in warm, humid conditions, specifically “between 86 degrees and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and between 80 and 90% humidity”. See the map below for the regions where the device is claimed to be most effective.

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The company plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon, and release the product to the public later this fall. Retezár hopes to make the Fontus available for a retail price of under $100.

The Fontus self-filling water bottle certainly seems like an interesting and valuable technology if it works as expected. However, some sources have criticized the design for being “vaporware in just about every sense of the phrase”.

It remains to be seen how the Fontus will fare in the real world—hopefully we can get our hands on one, and let you know.

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