UTEC water billboardWe might be a bit biased, but engineers create some really cool stuff. Case in point? A team of engineers from Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology created a billboard that converts humid air into clean, drinkable water. Brilliant, isn’t it?

The billboard is perched on the edge of the Atacama Desert in Lima, Peru, one of the world’s driest places. The city only averages 0.51 inches of rain per year, but atmospheric humidity is typically a whopping 98%.

How exactly does a billboard convert air into water? Fairly easily, in fact. The billboard includes five condensers that are powered by electricity from the city’s power lines. Just like the condensers in your air conditioner, the billboard’s condensers are cooler than the outside air — and when the air comes in contact with the condenser surfaces, the water vapor condenses into liquid water.

The water then travels down the billboard through a reverse-osmosis purification process and flows into a 20-liter storage tank at the billboard’s base. From there, residents can collect clean, drinkable water through base-mounted faucets.

In just three months, the billboard has already produced more than 9,000 liters of water.  And even better? The billboard reportedly cost around $1,200 to install.

Although the billboard serves as a model that could be replicated in other water-scarce areas, it also serves another purpose. Enrollment in UTEC’s engineering program had decreased, so the school teamed up with Peruvian ad agency, Mayo Publicidad, to create an advertisement that provides a practical, visual demonstration of what’s possible through engineering.

Interested in a closer look at the billboard and how it’s helping Lima? Take a look a this behind-the-scenes video:

Kudos to all who made this possible. That’s one of the things we love most about engineering: solving problems in functional, innovative ways that not only help people — in this case, it might just save someone’s life.

Would you like to see more of these billboards built throughout the world?