Self-Filling Water Bottle Is Beetle-Based
A self-filling water bottle is on the drawing board at a US startup company - a bottle that fills itself from the atmosphere.
(Namib beetle-based materials)
The beetle, endemic to Africa’s Namib desert—where there is just 1.3cm of rainfall a year—has inspired a fair few proof-of-concepts in the academic community, but this is the first time a self-filling water bottle has been proposed. The beetle survives by collecting condensation from the ocean breeze on the hardened shell of its wings. The shell is covered in tiny bumps that are water attracting (hydrophilic) at their tips and water-repelling (hydrophobic) at their sides. The beetle extends and aims the wings at incoming sea breezes to catch humid air; tiny droplets 15 to 20 microns in diameter eventually accumulate on its back and run straight down towards its mouth.
NBD Nano, made up of two biologists, an organic chemist and a mechanical engineer, is building on past studies that constructed structurally superior synthetic copies of the shell. An earlier incarnation of the material was first constructed in 2006 by an MIT team...
NBD Nano says it has achieved proof of concept with its dual water-attracting (superhydrophilic) and water-repelling (superhydrophobic) bottle design, and is currently working on a prototype and seeking funding. Incredibly, the team predicts that the bottle could collect between half a litre and three litres of water per hour, depending on the local environment.
SF writer Frank Herbert wrote about this same idea in his 1965 novel Dune. Most of the novel takes place on the planet Dune, which has no liquid surface water at all. In order to plant vegetation, special materials are used to create dew collectors, to gather even the tiniest amount of moisture.
"Each bush, each weed you see out there in the erg," she said, "how do you suppose it lives when we leave it? Each is planted most tenderly in its own little pit. The pits are filled with smooth ovals of chromoplastic. Light turns them white. You can see them glistening in the dawn if you look down from a high place. White reflects. But when Old Father Sun departs, the chromoplastic reverts to transparency in the dark. It cools with extreme rapidity. The surface condenses moisture out of the air. That moisture trickles down to keep our plants alive."
(Read more about Frank Herbert's dew collectors)
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