Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

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 ")

Polyaramide Is Stronger Than Steel, Light As Plastic
'... harnessed by aludur straps' - Leo Zagat, 1943.

Trinitite, Pentagrams And Isaac Asimov
'...And there were horns.' - Isaac Asimov, 1956.

RUSSE Self-Healing Plastic Works Underwater
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Pyrus, An Alternative Wood Made From Kombucha
Science fiction has just the word you'll need for that real wood from trees you've been using. Until now.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Sky Cruise Nuclear Powered Flying Hotel Concept
'... the huge air-freighter Jupiter.'

The Mojo Smart Contact Lens Experience
'... the lens displays would be useless without a wearable computer to do the graphics.'

Small Town Wants 60 License Plate Readers
'the registration number which the traffic control automatically photographed as she left the controlway...'

Lightyear 0 World's First Production-Ready Solar Car
'It could maintain a steady six miles per hour...'

AI Robots Excel At Trash Sorting And Recycling
'Then they press one of these here thirteen buttons...'

Could Increased Space Rocketry Damage The Ozone Layer?
'...without burning a single hydrocarbon molecule to injure the diseased atmosphere any further.'

Dyson's Secret Household Robots
'...work a human being does around a house.'

Festo BionicSwift Bird Robots Described In 1930
'Bird-like robots now descended from the ceiling of the theatre...'

Robotics Jobs In The Food Industry
'The efficient robot waiter of the Sky Club had cleared away the remnants of an epicurean meal.'

Prototype 3D Printer Could Print Arteries In Seconds
'...in the tank the new body and the new mind and memory and life has taken almost instant form.'

China Wants 'Hard Kill' Capability To Counter Starlink Satellites
'pirate three-vee satellites sanded out of orbit...'

Low-Cost Gel Pulls Water From Atmosphere Like Star Wars Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance. It had to be coaxed down...'

Pixy Flying Selfie Drone From Snap
'It hovered behind him like a large tame bee.'

Smallest Remote-Controlled Walking Robot Crabs
A robot 'as big as a dust grain.'

Pleasure Model Replicants Now Available
'Want a life-companion... sir, I can get you up any style you want.'

Robot Covered In Living Human Skin
'Hey buddy, you got a dead cat in there or what?'

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.