Harvard scientists have designed a new material inspired by organisms such as cacti, pitcher plants and desert beetles that can effectively harvest water from thin air. The research is the first step towards developing a system that can efficiently collect water and guide it to a reservoir, researchers said.

Certain organisms can survive in arid environments because they have evolved mechanisms to collect water from thin air.

b’A desert beetle on a cactus plant | Source:xc2xa0arizonensis.org’

The Namib desert beetle, for example, collects water droplets on the bumps of its shell while V-shaped cactus spines guide droplets to the plant’s body. Researchers from Harvard have drawn inspiration from these organisms to develop a better way to promote and transport condensed water droplets.

“Our research shows that a complex bio-inspired approach, in which we marry multiple biological species to come up with non-trivial designs for highly efficient materials with unprecedented properties, is a new, promising direction in biomimetics,” said Joanna Aizenberg from Harvard. The system is inspired by the bumpy shell of desert beetles, the asymmetric structure of cactus spines and slippery surfaces of pitcher plants.

The material harnesses the power of these natural systems, and Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) technology, to collect and direct the flow of condensed water droplets. The study was published in the journal Nature.