Access to fresh and clean water is at a crisis point. As countries scramble to develop technologies to abate any looming water shortages, one inventor says his new Air Water Generator can create thousands of gallons of water a day with minimal energy.
On September 14th, 2021, Genesis Systems, LLC of Tampa Bay, Florida, plans to unveil their patented “WaterCube.”
It’s a fully portable device whose primary inventor, Dr. David Stuckenberg, believes has the chance to tackle the world’s water access problem head-on, and one he says is already being embraced by governments and organizations from around the globe.
Air Water Generators, or AWGs, employ condensers and cooling coils to pull moisture from the air, much like a household dehumidifier. The technology has existed for a while and can range from small personal units that generate only a few liters of water to large commercial systems that create tens of thousands of liters per day. The problem is that large-scale systems use a considerable amount of energy and are highly inefficient. These costs limit their use, and nations that undergo significant droughts don’t have the resources to operate them.
“Water is the currency of the future, okay. Water and information,” Dr. Stuckenberg told The Debrief in an exclusive interview. “I should say, water is going to be key to information, right, because you don’t have a data center without water. You don’t make microchips without water. And [because of that] we’ve been in direct dialogue with more than 21 nations who are asking us to please accelerate our journey and come and help.”
From Inspiration to Hydration
In that same interview, the potent yet stoic Dr. Stuckenberg, who is also a former United States Air Force pilot, talked to The Debrief in great detail about the journey to get his company to this September’s unveiling, imparted a few secrets about how his tantalizing technology works, and humbly shared the rather impressive list of Board members and Advisors that have joined his effort.
“I was actually, in 2016, flying combat missions in Afghanistan,” said Dr. Stuckenberg. “And every day, I would come back from the sorties flying a KC 135, and there were hundreds of tanker trucks lined up into the distance every morning.” Those trucks, he soon learned, represented a considerable investment in money, manpower, and fuel simply to keep the airbase stocked with fresh water.
“And so, as I began to think about that over the next couple months of that deployment, on that installation in the middle of a desert, I had an idea,” he said. “And that’s the genesis of ‘Genesis.’”
Stuckenberg recalled how he made an immediate phone call to his wife Shannon, who he says is the company’s primary owner and his main confidant. Shannon convinced him to keep his idea to himself until he could make sure it was viable.
“That was good advice,” he said when recalling some of the failures and successes they encountered along the way.
Still, just to make sure they were on the right track, Shannon gave him the okay to reach out to a family friend and former manager of Advanced Planning in NASA’s Exploration Launch Projects Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, John Phil Sumrall, who among other accomplishments was program manager for Dr. Wernher von Braun’s ARES V rocket team that put the first humans on the moon.
“I met Dr. Wernher von Braun in 1962,” Sumrall stated in an email to The Debrief, “who had led the development of the V-2 ballistic missiles during World War II and was now the Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center,” Sumrall explained his work on that team led his undergraduate Alma Mater, the University of Central Missouri, to honor him in 2008. At that awards dinner, he met David and Shannon Stuckenberg.
“We got acquainted that evening,” Sumrall said. “We exchanged contact information which led to many technical exchanges and an enduring friendship. [Ultimately] I was invited to become a charter member of the Genesis Board of Directors.”
Sumrall was emphatic when asked about the “WaterCube’s” viability and if it really had the potential to solve real-world problems.
“I believe that the lack of freshwater may well become the greatest technical challenge facing the world in this century,” he wrote. “I am very confident that our system will be successful. We have performed detailed technical analyses, materials trade studies, and built prototypes. We know that the system will work! The performance has exceeded expectations.”
With Sumrall’s support, Stuckenberg decided to reach out to some of the connections he had made during his military career to see if they could help the mission become a reality. This effort culminated in the assembly of a Board of Directors and Advisory Board that includes such formidable names as former CIA Director Ambassador R. James “Jim” Woolsey, Retired Air Force General Dave Deptula, Retired USAF 3-Star General Steven Kwast, Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, and Retired United States Navy Vice Admiral Norb Ryan Jr.
“I was asked to become a Board Member by Shannon and David Stuckenberg while I was serving as the President/CEO of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA),” Vice Admiral Ryan told The Debrief. “Shannon and David briefed me on their exciting plan and remarkable approach to generating water out of the atmosphere, and I immediately agreed to join the Board, as I firmly believe the Genesis System’s mission is so compelling and vital to the future of the planet!”
Stuckenberg recalled a particular conversation with an admiral in the Navy that has continued to serve as further inspiration for his company’s mission.
“I’ll never forget that the Lord of the Admiralty said, ‘see that boat on the wall behind me, Dave?’ I said yeah, and he said, ‘last time I had that aircraft carrier, I paid more for the water than I did the fuel.’”
Why is the “WaterCube” Different?
After finding their first investor, thanks to a connection made by Sumrall (to date, the company has raised $9 million total), the Genesis team confirmed their analysis of the AWGs already in use or being tested. And as suspected, even the latest systems in development faced the same two limitations; low water production and high energy usage.
“I’m a fellow at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab,” Stuckenberg told The Debrief. “I am, you know, familiar with what’s going on at Stanford, metal-organic frameworks and other technologies. None of them will be able to breakthrough. I’m also aware of, you know, journeys that DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has going with their AWGs. Those aren’t going to deliver [either].”
When pressed about these big claims, Stuckenberg provided some additional insight.
“Most of them are pursuing the wrong technology lines. For instance, metal organic frameworks (one type of AWG) are nanocrystalline materials. From a thermodynamic perspective and from a scaling perspective, they will never be practical due to the fact that they shed elements of their metal into water, or that they take so long to absorb [that] microbes buildup in between.”
In hopes of finding a better way, Dr. Stuckenberg said he looked to nature for inspiration, a process he termed “biomimicry.”
“We borrowed from nature…this process within our ecosystem that uses Earth’s natural hydraulic cycle and accelerates that through a liquid process,” he said. “And just by doing that, we achieve orders of magnitude better efficiency than anything else [in development].”
According to Stuckenberg, it took years to perfect this process into the working system they have today. However, during that time, they received significant support from the U.S Military, including winning some key recognition along the way.
“We were the winners in the Reimagining Energy challenge for the Department of Defense,” Stuckenberg told The Debrief. “This challenge allowed us to beat hundreds of companies to become one of the top 18. Then the Air Force Research Lab kind of put us through their technical scrutiny and actually provided a letter of good merit for the technology.” That letter of merit, says Stuckenberg, comes from the chief technology officer of the AFRL.
On that same list of accomplishments, the doctor also noted that their system recently advanced to the finals of the Army X Tech competition, placing it in the top eight of the over 400 companies who entered. “That competition is still ongoing,” Stuckenberg told The Debrief in an August 8th phone call. “And we’re still in the running to win.”
Where the Water Meets the Road
Even with years of research and development under their belt, as well as some rather high-value 3rd party confirmations of their process, the Stuckenbergs freely acknowledge that the real test will come this September when they unveil the “WaterCube” to a group of assembled dignitaries that they believe can and will take their system worldwide.
“We were gonna have a lot of VIPs and a lot of very interesting people [at that event],” Stuckenberg explained. “It will be exclusive and small, but the idea is to let global influencers know what we’re doing. We are also expecting attendance from several embassies, including an RSVP by an [unnamed] UN ambassador. This is how serious water is becoming to their nations.”
Stuckenberg also indicated that many Native American tribes had expressed their interest. Some countries he is not yet ready to name seem poised to implement his system on a much larger scale.
“I won’t say the nation, but I’ll share with you that I spoke with a diplomat of the United Nations,” Stuckenberg told The Debrief regarding one of many such examples. “He was an ambassador for his country group, and we had about a 30-minute conversation. And by the end of that conversation, he was showing [us] where to put our systems in his nation.”
As far as whether those in attendance at the September 14th event will witness a stunning success or a tragic failure, the previously reserved doctor became particularly effusive of his team and their system.
“We will actually have a functioning unit there, which will be making water in front of people. It’s a full-on demo,” said Stuckenberg. “Our first product that we debut here, will generate in the 1000s of gallons a day.”
Stuckenberg later clarified that the demo unit is expected to produce 2,000 gallons (7,570 liters) of water a day in a 60% humidity environment, although he did note some limitations in environments under 8% humidity. But, he said, it is the final hurdle to overcome for their approach to be usable anywhere on Earth, and they have a high level of confidence that a successful solution is coming soon.
Last, Stuckenberg explained that the entire machine and all supporting equipment (minus external power supply for the demo) fits comfortably inside a 20-foot shipping container, making it highly portable and usable in nearly all environments.
“It would be a containerized packing system, and it’s going to be very energy efficient, because that’s important,” Stuckenberg said, reiterating how he believes that his invention has solved both the water production and energy consumption issues plaguing previous systems. He also made sure to point out that it can be powered by any type of renewable energy or even off of waste heat, furthering the company’s goal of making it a carbon-neutral process.
Water Shortages Don’t Have to Be Our Future
After years of trial and error development and some helping hands from more than one high-profile supporter, the Stuckenbergs say they are finally ready to unveil their system to the world and that this unveiling isn’t coming a moment too soon.
“102 military bases are out of water or facing water scarcity according to the GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Accounting Office). This is a government accountability office number,” Stuckenberg told The Debrief. “This is how fast this problem is challenging even our national security.” This same security problem, he says, extends to a whole range of other military bases, and all simply because of lack of access to water. “They’re estimated 400 active bases that are closed that have contaminated water supplies,” he said. He then pointed out the humanitarian cost.
“We’ve got an estimated 6000 children a day dying from waterborne illnesses and scarcity. And at the end of the day, we want to intervene directly in that,” he said. “Water is also the component for every production element of society; everything that we find useful from the cell phone I’m talking to you on, which is 3100 gallons of water to make, or the shirt I’m wearing, which took 800 gallons of water to make.”
At the interview’s conclusion, Stuckenberg acknowledged that the success or failure of his invention would be determined in the real world and not at a single demo, regardless of who may or may not be attending.
However, in light of the long road to their upcoming September event and the apparent excitement of those in and around the company who spoke to The Debrief, the former fighter pilot and steely-eyed founder of Genesis struck a particularly optimistic tone while somehow seeming to remain firmly grounded all at the same time, a skill he likely put to good use behind the wheel of that KC 135.
“We’re on a quest, and this is the journey,” said Stuckenberg in a slightly raised voice, one of the few times he revealed the heavy emotions behind his company’s mission. “Nobody by any means is saying we’ve arrived at a panacea. But I will tell you that our solution is far superior to anything in existence today. Far superior. When you and our September 14th guests find out what we can do, well, let’s just say it will be all smiles.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, it stated that Dr. Stuckenberg was “flying missions out of Afghanistan.” He was flying mission in Afghanistan out of Quatar.
Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter: @plain_fiction
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