Drinking clouds: Princeton grad turns fog into water


In October 2012 Chris Janusis was on Staten Island when superstorm Sandy flooded roadways and flattened homes.

But he says the longest-lasting effect has been water contamination.

“I have huge concerns,” he said recently as he opened the spigot at his kitchen sink. “I have concerns about the clarity of the water, the taste of the water, the smell of the water.”

In fact, he said he and most of his neighbors refuse to drink any tap water after more than a year and a half.

But these days Janusis isn’t the only person with water problems.

Eighteen Western states are facing drought conditions, and 780 million people worldwide live without clean drinking water.

It is exactly why Princeton University grad student Michael Thomas decided to search his history books, discovering a way to extract drinkable water from clouds and fog.

“It’s an ancient Incan technique that we’ve implemented and used new resources,” he said recently, as he watched the clouds pass over New York’s Coney Island.

The Incan method of water collection used cotton material to soak up moisture on top of some of Mexico’s highest mountains.

Thomas uses an intricate system of polyurethane mesh nets to capture moisture from the air in New Jersey. He and two of his fellow Princeton students started a company called “Phogwater.” He says fog water is so abundant it may one day help solve water shortages in some of the driest areas on the planet.

“We are really hoping this can do good,” he says.

In addition, he says, it’s also some of the cleanest drinking water around.

“It doesn’t come from any ground water source. It comes directly from the clouds, so there’s no contamination at all and there are no particulates. It’s completely clean as soon as it comes off the nets.”

And that is great news for Janusis, who sees a future where fog water is available to everyone who needs it.

“We need more of these kind of inventions,” he said, pointing out that there’s more than enough mist on Staten Island to go around.

“Plenty of fog, he said. “Plenty of fog and rain to collect, to have clean purified water for my family and my neighbors and everybody that’s on Staten Island, and everybody that’s in the world.”

Douglas Kennedy currently serves as a correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.

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