Water shortages will likely become worse as time wears on, so we need to find a way to collect this precious resource under even the harshest conditions. Harvard University researchers have found a way to harvest water from arid environments by borrowing evolutionary tools from desert beetles, cacti, and carnivorous pitcher plants.
A paper published in Nature this week details the difficulties of creating and controlling dropwise condensation, or what happens when water vapor condenses on dry surfaces, as opposed to surfaces wet from the condensate. It is easy to produce and collect condensation when you have water as a starting ingredient but researchers had to consider what we would do if water is scarce. Organisms who have evolved over time to successfully live in the desert became an obvious choice to study, starting the team down a path of using biomimicry to create a solution.
The Namib desert beetle has an outer shell riddled with bumps, which allows it to trap water vapors present on foggy days. Desert cacti also have their own methods of collecting the water droplets they capture through unique ridges that can pool the condensation. Finally, the slick surface of pitcher plants also played a role in the final material the team produced. Neatly arranged bumps, designed to guide water droplets for collection, are found on the surface of the team’s material, which is coated with a molecularly smooth lubricant to ease the flow of the water.
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.