Namib Desert Beetle-based Dune Dew Collectors

The Namib Desert beetle lives in one of the driest places on earth - just one half of an inch of rain per year. When early morning fog offers the hint of moisture, the beetle is ready to take a drink - from the amazing surface on its back. MIT researchers, inspired by the beetle, have created a material that can capture and control tiny amounts of water.


(The Namib Desert beetle - photo by Andrew Parker)

When the slightest fog blows horizontally across the beetle's back, water droplets just 15-20 microns in diameter start to accumulate on the bumps on its back. The bumps are surrounded by waxy water-repelling channels. When a bump collects enough water to form a big droplet, it rolls down a channel right into the beetle's mouth.

MIT researchers Robert Cohen and Michael Rubner were inspired by a 2001 article in the journal Nature describing the beetle, and thought it would be a good candidate for biomimicry - the imitation of a natural-world solution to a problem.


(MIT researchers Cohen and Rubner in situ in their lab)

Their newly designed material combines a superhydrophilic (water-attracting) surface with superhydrophobic (water-repelling) surface. A Teflon-like substance is applied to a surface (for water-repulsion); silica nanoparticles and charged polymers help create a rough texture to attract droplets. The research was funded by our good friends at DARPA.

Science fiction writer Frank Herbert wrote about this same idea in his remarkable 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)

In the dew collectors of Herbert's imagination, a special material changes from light to dark in order to pull moisture out of the air. Cohen and Rubner's new material should be able to do the same trick using a different technology.

If you are interested in these materials science stories, take a look at Water-Repellent 'Bumpy' Glass Mimics Lotus Leaves and Arachnid Adhesion: The Sticky Feet Of Spiders.Read more at Beetle spawns new material.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/18/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Material ")

3D Printed Graphene Aerogel - So Light!
'... light as cork and stronger than steel...' - Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1929.

Vantablack Now IMMEASURABLY Black
'a black coating now that’s ninety-nine percent absorptive...' - Doc Smith, 1934.

New Paper - Write With Light Erase With Heat
Writing with light, erasing with heat.

Reconfigured Graphene 10X Strong, 5 Percent Dense, As Steel
'...It was made of Alohydrolium, which is the lightest of all metals.' - Hugo Gernsback, 1911.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...'

Will Robots Be Moral If We Raise Them Like Our Children?
'The birth of Machine, my robot child...'

Foldable Galaxy Phones, I Swear They're Coming (Maybe)
How hard can it be?

Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...'

Brain Connected To Internet - ‘Brainternet'
Fascinating!

Artificial Spider Silk
You can also use it to make a roof - on an asteroid.

MIT Tunes Ions For Frictionless Surface - Superlubricity!
'My telelubricator here neutralizes the interatomic bonds the surface of any solid...'

Seiko Astron Always Knows Your Time Zone
'Harrington glanced at his wrist watch - a bulky affair - and whistled.'

Robot Buddhist Priest Chants, Drums
'He crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth...'

Koniku Kore, Mouse Brain-Based Chip, Detects Explosives
'As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever.'

CNH Industrial Autonomous Tractor Concept Video
'...the tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.'

The Neuroon Open Sleep Tracker For Lucid Dreaming
'Leads trail away from insertion points on her face and wrist... to a lucid dreamer on the bedside shelf.'

Siri Now Smoother, Perkier (Thanks, Deep Learning!)
'Good morning, Dr. Chandra. This is Hal.'

China's Drone Fleet Flies In Formation
'Programmed to hang... in a hexagonal grid pattern.'

Neuralink, The Latest Elon Musk Passion
'I used my implant to tell MILLIE [a mainframe computer] what we wanted...'

RFly Drones Rule The Warehouse
'The wasp homed unerringly on the face of the honeycomb...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.