By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
A student has developed a bug-inspired fog-harvesting device for people who don't have access to clean water.
One of the strange conundrums of fog is that while it's comprised of clean water, it's way too dispersed to be of use to anyone.
However, there's one creature that's able to drink fog -- literally. The Namib Beetle, native to the Namib Desert in Africa, does this by collecting water droplets on its bumpy back, then lets the moisture roll down into its mouth.
Now a student at MIT named Shreerang Chhatre has developed a bug-inspired fog-harvesting device for people living in regions who don't have access to clean water. This is a problem that affects an estimated nearly 900 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“As a middle-class person, I think it’s terrible that the poor have to spend hours a day walking just to obtain a basic necessity,” Chhatre says.
He wanted to model his device after the Namib beetle's shell because it relies entirely on the very simple principle of shape. For instance, the bumps attract water, while the troughs repel it. So when enough droplets accumulate on the bumps, it washes through the troughs (without being absorbed) and into the beetle’s mouth.
(To see more inventions that help developing regions check out the humanitarian tech image gallery.)
But to build an effective fog harvesters for people, the researchers used a mesh rather than a solid surface like a beetle’s shell. This is because early experiments showed that a completely impermeable object creates wind currents that divert water droplets away from it.
“We tried to replicate what the beetle has, but found this kind of open permeable surface is better,” Chhatre says. “The beetle only needs to drink a few micro-liters of water. We want to capture as large a quantity as possible.”
In field tests, the device captured one liter of water per square meter of mesh over the course of a day. His research team are conducting further tests to improve the water collecting capacity of current mesh designs.
But even so, one of the biggest challenges would be to develop a product that would be affordable enough to be available to the people who need it most.
“My consumer has little monetary power,” says Chhatre. “This is still a very open problem. It’s a work in progress.”
Image: Patrick Gillooly/MIT
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- A bicycle that produces drinking water may help thirsty villages
- Invention uses sunlight to produce clean water
- Infographic: What is the water footprint in the U.S.?
- New irrigation system helps farmers conserve water
- A beetle-inspired water bottle that fills itself
Apr 27, 2011
Very good innovation...How is it different from the Fog Catchers installed in Peru by conservationists Tiedemann and Lummerich?
Keep moving this and power it up with Solar unlike the Atmospheric Water Generator which requires AC Grid loads- although also workable with Alt-energy but expensive! http://www.juneayasol.com
The basic concept has been done for a long time. I'll bet the Peruvian cloth is cheaper to produce. A key factor when designing for poor people.
This has been done in the Peruvian mountains for years. A cloth sheet, similar to cheesecloth, is put up and water from the fog condenses on the fabric and runs into a collection basin or pipe. No electricity or other power required.
ask for more info you need from the author. i am sure he is willing to email you what you need to know. my opinion. as for the author...go for it and keep going.
I seem to recall an interview with one of the technical types involved in the original Star Wars. He said, though they were never actually seen, they had designed the water harvesting devices that Luke's uncle ran on Tatooine. They operated on the same basic premise as this.
Cloud and fog harvesting has been going on at scale for years, if not decades in many places - particularly in the Andes. This is nothing new. Fences of screens/nets with troughs under them are sited on ridges an or in passes where moisture saturated air movement passes regularly. The moisture droplets form on the screens/nets and gravity takes it down to the trough and then the trough to catch basins/sumps where pumps and or villagers transport the water to use. There have been numerous articles on this in the popular press - anybody bother to look for background? This is article does not show any signs of the author or editor doing any research on the subject and how and why the un-described "device" might be better and more efficient. The editor of this article needs to be replaced by someone with a broader background and someone willing to research what is "news" and what is not.
Lot of informaition left out again, like what powers it,and how or is it passive? no point in these write ups without basic facts