IIT Researchers Developed A Material To Harvest Water From Fog

Ask a thirsty man the real value of water. It wouldn't be too long before we are actually hit by water crisis. With the increase in population,1 in 9 people in India, lack access to safe water. It is no more limited to third world nations, but has taken a global form. From Cape Town to Flint, Michigan, and from rural, sub-Saharan Africa to Asia’s hi-tech mega-cities all are reeling under acute water crisis. It is high time scientists find out ways and means to conserve and harvest water from unexpected sources, such as fog and mist, to meet the ever growing demand for water. 

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A lot of you might be wondering why fog? There are arid areas which have very less rainfall and no major source of water. That's why harvesting water from the fog becomes very crucial. It is believed that one cubic mile of fog has almost 450,000 pounds of liquid water. That is a lot of water. 

When we talk of harvesting water from fog, we are not the first one to do that. There have been plants and animals who have been using fog as a water source like Fog basking beetles and Namib dune bushman grass, collect water directly from the fog. Taking inspiration from the nature itself  IIT Mandi, has developed a material that can harvest water from fog.

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The research team led by Dr Venkata Krishnan, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi, studied the intricate structures on plants which capture water from the air, and tried to create something on that which too can harvest water. “There are several plants in arid and semi-arid regions of the world whose leaves can harvest water from dew and fog. If they can do it, so can we,” said Venkata Krishnan to DNA.

According to the study published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, researchers studied the intricate structures on the leaves of an ornamental plant called the Dragon’s lily head (Gladiolus dalenii). There were some very interesting observations like the plant had well-arranged conical spines with sharp edges and gradient grooves which were arranged in order. They also found that the conical spines give a larger surface area, hence more fog gets deposited, and the grooves were used to transport the water that was once fog. 

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Everything including surface patterns on the leaf in micrometre and nanometre scales were evaluated in relation to the water harvesting properties, and after that the patterns were replicated onto a polymer material.

After replicating the design of the plant on the polymer material , the team found a 230 per cent enhancement on the fog harvesting performance compared to an unpatterned control sample.

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Krishnan who hopes that the method is put to use nation-wide, said to The Statesman, “Collaborative efforts between scientists, industry and policymakers can enable furthering of this technology to provide drinking water to some or all of the 12 per cent of the underprivileged in the country.”

Picture Source: The Statesman; The Better India; smithsoniamag.com; The National.

#Nature #Environment


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