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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...'- Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme. - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'- J.G. Ballard, 1962.
3D Printed Graphene Aerogel - So Light!
'... light as cork and stronger than steel...' - Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1929.
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.
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.
ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.
When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'
Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'
'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'
Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'
Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'
Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.
Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'
Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'
Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories