Harvesting water from air thanks to biomimicry

 Thanks to biomimicry, chemistry researchers have taken inspiration from spider webs to develop systems for extracting water from the air without using energy. These Chinese researchers have designed new fibers that can gather fog in the same way as fibers produced by spiders gather liquid form of dew. The potential of this research is large-scale water production.

The threads trap water due to their rough surface and spindle-shaped knots that appear as a pattern along their length. Historically, this has been the principle that has guided the design of different water collection devices. The novelties of the recent study have to do with the addition of two elements present in the fibers of spider webs. On one hand, the central axis of the fiber between the knots consists of two parallel threads with a small space in the center. On the other, knots at a microscopic level have a spiral or helix shape. The researchers were able to mimic these characteristics in the polymer they developed. The result was stunning since the efficiency in water collection increased by 590% compared to fibers found in nature. For example, in those fibers with helical knots, each knot could carry 2,100 times more water than the volume of the knot itself. The fibers are low cost, durable, strong and flexible, which means they can potentially be used for large-scale projects.  

In this way, this wonderful study allows a possible solution to water shortage by using the following biomimicry principles:

  • Use low energy processes.
  • Combine modular and nested components.
  • Fit form to function.

Source: Anthropocene

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