According to the United Nations, the year 2050 could see more than 5 billion people suffer water shortages as a result of climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies. This forecast means that now more than ever, it’s important to create new ways of obtaining sustainable drinking water. One person working to make that a reality is Arizona State University professor Cody Friesen.
Friesen, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at ASU and the founder of Scottsdale-based Zero Mass Water, is also the creator of the SOURCE Hydropanels, a device that combats water scarcity by absorbing moisture from the air and converting it into clean, drinking water. Friesen developed the technology with the backing of an 11-member team of researchers at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and it earned him the 2019 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the largest cash price for invention in the U.S.
“Cody Friesen embodies what it means to be an impact inventor,” said Carol Dahl, executive director at the Lemelson Foundation. “His inventions are truly improving lives, take into account environmental considerations and have become the basis for companies that impact millions of people around the world each year.”
Truly living up to the moniker, Friesen donated the cash from the award to a Zero Mass Water project to provide Hydropanels to the Bahia Hondita community in Colombia. But that’s not all. In the five years since Zero Mass Water was launched, SOURCE Hydropanels can be found all across the U.S. and all across the globe, from U.S. schools with aging pipelines to aboriginal communities in Australia, to desert regions in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa and to an orphanage for Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon. So far, the technology has been installed in more than 35 countries across the world.
“If we could do for water what solar does for electricity,” Friesen said, “we could fundamentally shift the axis of the planet and improve the human condition with respect to water.”