Another day, another step closer we come to living in a world of science fiction, as a new report suggests that the moisture farming technique used by Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen to make a living on Tatooine is becoming a scientific reality. In the first (or indeed fourth) Star Wars movie, the audience finds protagonist Luke frustrated with working on his family's moisture farm and has aspirations of doing greater things with his life.
In the Star Wars universe, moisture farming consists of harnessing the water vapor present in the air and turning it into actual liquid water that can be used for drinking and other every day necessities. The Skywalker farm did this by using a fictional device called a Vaporator and presumably, with Tatooine being a hot and humid desert planet, water was a highly valuable commodity.
Amin Al-Habaibeh - a Professor of Intelligent Engineering Systems at Nottingham Trent University - has been working with his team to turn this piece of science fiction tech into a reality. Scientists at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have already been developing a technique for trapping water vapor from the air and harvesting water from it using solar-powered metal organic frameworks that catch the vapor and use the sun to condense it. However, Al-Habaibeh and his team are now developing a more efficient version using recycled refrigerators and freezers, as well as components cannibalized from other household pieces of hardware. Al-Habaibeh points out that using the principle of condensation to turn water vapor into water actually yields a larger output in the high humidity conditions that would've been present on Tatooine, as the amount of vapor present in the atmosphere is higher.
Moisture farming is just one of several instances of technology found in science fiction films and television shows becoming a reality as the years pass by. Nike recently produced the power lacing shoes found in Back To The Future and Apple's iPad had a bulkier progenitor in the original Star Trek series, with that show also predicting the use of flip phones with their gold-topped communicators. Unfortunately, transporters are still a work in progress.
Of course, the implications of real-life moisture farming are huge, particularly if Al-Habaibeh and his team develop a way to perform the technique at a low cost. It could mean that dry, third-world countries with limited access to water would have a safe way of gathering clean H20. M.I.T. have reportedly collected almost 3 liters of water per day without the use of an external power source and that's an impressive feat even by Star Wars' standards.
On the other hand, there are some risks involved. Moisture farmers must beware of attacks by local groups known as Tusken Raiders (or Sand People, as they prefer to be known) and must also be careful to avoid being sold defective technology by the Jawa traders in the vicinity. Also, if you have a disgruntled nephew living on your farm, it's probably best to just let him leave.
Source: Amin Al-Habaibeh (via CNN)
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018