BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Water is, without the shadow of a doubt, crucial to our existence. To this extent, we have been searching for ways to conserve water and to produce water. Recently, a team of scientists was able to create a material that produces water droplets six times faster than any other material. The Namib beetle was used to design water collecting materials that could eventually help people leaving in dry areas.
Since the dawn of time, man has looked up to the animal kingdom in order to draw inspiration for his designs. Inspired by the wings of the bird and its capacity to glide in the air, Leonardo da Vinci created the first man-made flying device, a prototype which will later be used for aircraft.
Now, another generation of researchers is looking towards Nature for inspiration. Recently, a team of scientists was successful of devising a material that enhances the water collection process. As we might expect, this whole project was inspired by an insect which lives in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth: the Namib Desert, situated in the South of Africa.
As the scientists observed, the Namib beetle has quite a knack in surviving under the scorching sun of the desert. According to their observation, the Namib Beetle is actually capable of harvesting water droplets from the atmosphere. And thanks to the geometry of the shell, the water droplets slide off directly into the beetle’s mouth.
For a long time, most scientists have attributed this process to a chemical reaction taking place once the water droplets touch the beetle’s shell. But, according to the latest research endeavor, it would seem that chemistry has nothing to do with the beetle’s survival skills. Actually, the water harvesting process can be achieved thanks to the geometry of the shell.
By using the beetle’s shell as a starting point, the team of scientists actually managed to develop a material that not only stores water more efficiently, but it is also capable of producing six times the amount of droplets than other materials. But the beetle’s shell geometry was not the only thing used by the scientist in order to create the perfect water harvesting material.
According to their statements, while studying the beetle’s water harvesting capabilities, the scientist also looked into cacti and pitcher plants. Using what they’ve learned from the two plants, the scientists added cactus spine to the material, in order to guide the water droplets more efficiently. Moreover, by studying the pitcher plant, the scientists found out that they can use a lubricant in order to minimize the friction between the water droplets and the material’s surface.
The Namib beetle was used to design water collecting material, according to a paper that was recently published in the Nature journal. Philseok Kim, co-author of the study declared that the newly-devised material can be used by thermal power plants, air conditioning systems and for desalination.