Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water wings aid desert survival

01.11.2001


Back draught: this beetle drinks the water its bumps collect.
© Parker/Lawrence


Humans learn water-gathering trick from bumpy beetle.

A desert beetle turns fog into drinking water with its wings, new research reveals. Materials mimicking the insect could help humans survive harsh environments.

Southwest Africa’s Namib Desert is one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. There is no rain, but on about six mornings a month a fog blows in off the Atlantic and across the land at gale force.



The beetle Stenocara traps this fleeting resource, zoologist Andrew Parker, of the University of Oxford, and Chris Lawrence, of QinetiQ, the commercial arm of the UK defence ministry, have discovered. The insect’s hard front wings are covered in bumps. The peaks attract water and the valleys repel it1.

The beetle faces into the wind with its wings aloft. Fog droplets stick to the water-attracting bumps and coalesce. When they are big enough to touch a water-repelling valley, they roll down into the beetle’s mouth.

It’s an easy trick, and cheap to reproduce. Similar materials can be made using screen printing and injection moulding, or even with a computer printer that sprays water-attracting ink onto an acetate sheet.

Parker and QinetiQ are now optimizing the design and production of fog-collecting materials. Their current efforts are already "several times more efficient" than other fog collectors, says Parker. A product - probably a tent that can gather drinking water for its occupants - should be on the market within a year, he says.

The mists of time

People have collected fog to drink for centuries. Two thousand years ago, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder described how inhabitants of the Canary Islands gathered fog droplets trapped by trees. Stones placed around the trees to collect the drips are still there today.

Robert Schemenauer, of Environment Canada in Toronto, advises an ever-growing number of fog-collecting projects across the world. One of the first, set up in the Chilean village of Chungungo in 1987, now supplies 700 people with 15,000 litres of water each day.

Plastic mesh is Schemenauer’s fog-collecting material of choice. It is cheap, efficient and robust, he says. But improvements are always welcome: "If something can be transferred from a beetle to a building material it could help a lot," he says.

Beetle-inspired material might be particularly suited to gathering dew, says Schemenauer, where there is a problem of making the water droplets run off the collecting surface.

References
  1. Parker, A. R. & Lawrence, C. R Water capture by a desert beetle. Nature, 414, 33 - 34, (2001).

JOHN WHITFIELD | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011101/011101-14.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>