biomimetic file 112: beetle inspired material draws water from arid air

Beetle inspired material draws water from arid air

“Inspired by a resident of one of the driest and most inhospitable places on our planet, a team of researchers based at Rice University has developed a device capable of capturing and collecting water from the atmosphere that could eventually be used to supply water to civilizations inhabiting arid areas.”


photo credit: Rice University. The scaffold

Human activities will continue to cause drastic changes in the climate system throughout the century. It is a simple fact that while some areas will see significant increase in rainfall others will become drier and even desert like.

While some solutions are currently effective at producing fresh water (e.g. reverse osmosis) they are however unsustainable as they are energy intense and/or too expensive. Cheaper alternatives must be found to allow poorer and remote communities to access the rising demand for clean /fresh water.

Despite not always seen, the water is there omnipresent in the lower atmosphere even in the driest places on Earth. Having access to this water is all about finding effective ways of precipitating the water from its vapour to liquid phase.

Some species on the planet have been capturing atmospheric water from the ambient air for millions of years and we have a lot to learn from these processes and how they have managed do it effectively.

Learning from these natural case studies could well produce solutions which are both effective and economically viable. Resulting systems are likely to require large surface areas for collection; combined with built structures (e.g. residential estates) such atmospheric water collection systems could bring cities a step closer to sustainability.

more information at:

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…



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