One of the oddest ironies of living on an energy-ravenous planet is that so many of our developing countries happen to be located near the equator, and are already receiving much more sunlight and rainfall than most other countries on the planet. Yet, in spite of such a promiscuous gift of abundance, the majority of people living in these countries suffer from a lack of electricity and potable, portable drinking water.

Out of Mexico City, a local group of engineers and designers have formed a coalition called PhotoFlow. Influenced by blueprints and designs that date back as far as the empire of the Mayas, they have created a simple device to collect both of these precious natural resources to meet the need for both electricity and drinking water. Its leader, Agustin Otegui Saiz, a product designer from Mexico City, formed his own company NOS in 2009. Educated at the Elisava School of Design in Barcelona, he has a Masters degree in Product Design and Simulation. After working for more than five years in Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK for different clients in various sectors such as transportation, aerospace, consumer goods and electronics, he brought his experience to bear as the Creative Director at ROCOCO Corporation where he is a co-founder. At the same time, Agustin, was a visiting teacher at the Universidad Iberoamericana where he met and recruited some of the best and brightest young Mexican scientists and designers to form PhotoFlow, which they conceptualized and then incorporated.

PhotoFlow I

PhotoFlow I is a collection system composed of eight identical triangular photovoltaic modules that are mounted on custom water tanks. Assembled they form an octagon set at a slight slope of 3 degrees, which allows water to gather and funnel into a central filter. The water then follows a pathway through a hose that directly goes into the water tank.

Meanwhile, the solar system integrates both N-type and P-type silicon layers. With a view toward minimizing any loss of light through reflection, each module is equipped with first-generation mono-crystalline silicon solar cells covered with an antireflective adhesive that shields its photovoltaic semiconductor and. On top of the outer layer of the glass a Nano repellent film is applied to prevent dirt from obstructing light. At the same time, each module includes a delicately built hinged lid at the end to allow easy access for cleaning, maintenance and part replacement. The water tank, which is made of recycled rotationally molded polyethylene with a capacity of 400 liters. Additionally, because of the constant threat of bacterial infection that can grow out of the heat caused by fungi, the inner layer of the tank is covered with an antiseptic coating that maintains the quality of potable drinking water.

The solar energy industry in the U.S. has grown by more than 76 percent, according to Yahoo News and, rhetorically at least, is the leading light of President Obama’s renewable energy policies. The problem with solar panels, so many naysayers insist, is that these solar panels work best in sunny climates but are far less effective when bad weather appears. Led by Saiz, however, and created by design studio NOS, the rooftop-mounted PhotoFlow turns the panels to use when it’s raining by placing them in a ring with a tilt of three degrees. In the sunshine, the tilt enables the panels to absorb solar energy from all angles, regardless of the location of the sun. The collected energy — up to 340 kWh — can then be used to power the home. During rainfall, the tilt catches rain and directs through a filter, before collecting it in the reservoir below, capable of holding up to 400 liters.

Much like France’s Eole Wind Turbines which condensate and filter the air’s water vapor — the PhotoFlow I provides both energy and drinkable water in one (less than) foul, brilliant swoop, enabling those in need to take advantage of natural resources. NOS/PhotoFlow are hoping to secure funding from both the governments of Mexico and the U.S. Indeed even the nihilistically inclined political types who refuse to countenance global warning and the melting of the polar ice cap, see the common sense need too support investment in a full – although not endless – supply of sunlight and water.

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