Airdrop Moisture Vaporator

Airdrop pulls moisture out of even the driest Aussie skies to provide water for farming, just like the moisture vaporators of Tatooine.


(Airdrop Moisture Vaporator)

Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has tapped the Namib beetle - a desert dwelling species that survives in the most arid conditions on Earth - to create an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.

Airdrop, as the system is known, borrows a trick from the Namib beetle, which can live in areas that receive just half an inch of rain per year by harvesting the moisture from the air that condenses on its back during the early morning hours. A hydrophilic skin helps to snare water molecules passing on the breeze, which then accumulate into droplets of consumable liquid water.

Airdrop mimics this idea, though on a larger scale. The self-powering device pumps air into a network of underground pipes, where it cools enough for water to condense. From there the moisture is delivered to the roots of nearby plants. Linacre's calculations show that about 11.5 millilitres can be harvested from every cubic metre of air, and further development could raise that number even higher.

As sf fans know, the only way to farm on Tatooine was to use moisture vaporators to pull water out of the air:, using a "vaporator sunk securely through sand and into deeper rock":

For human purposes, however, the water of Tatooine was only marginally accessible. The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance. It had to be coaxed down out of the hard blue sky -- coaxed, forced, yanked down to the parched surface.

Luke Skywalker was twice the age of the 10-year-old vaporator, but much less secure. At the moment he was swearing softly at a recalcitrant valve adjuster on the temperamental device.
(Read more about Lucas' vaporator)

Update: I should point out that there have been other attempts to build similar devices using the biomimicry approach. See Namib Desert Beetle-based Dune Dew Collectors for details. End update.

From PopSci down under; thanks to Nicholas Johnson for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/11/2011)

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