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 |
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 -
MIT Self-Assembling Reprogrammable Materials
'Faster the cubes moved; faster the circle revolved; the pyramids raised themselves, stood bolt upright on their square bases...' - Abraham Merritt, 1920.
Tiny Mining - Extract Precious Industrial Minerals From Your Own Body
'Jim, I saw them reduce four of my doctors and nurses into those little cubes!' - Gene Roddenberry, 1968.
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.
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.
Megachurches Catch Up To Heinlein
'Mars,' the kid repeated, threw Boone a Scout salute and made a sixty-foot leap over the crowd.
Olympus 3D Printing Using Lunar And Martian Materials
The system may be used to create critical infrastructure on the Moon, including landing pads, blast shields, and roads.
Robot Builds Robots From Voxel Subunits
'I was patiently building the most dangerous thing in creation...'
Meltz Neurorehabilitation Robotic Hand
A new type of rehabilitation called "neuro-rehabilitation.
San Francisco Wants ED-209, Or Maybe Robocop
'The Enforcement Droid series 209 is a self-sufficient law enforcement robot...'
Seoul Self-Driving 42dot Bus Unveiled
'Buses without drivers moved close to the curb and stopped at intervals.'
T. Gondii And The Leaders Of The Pack
'... infected males were more than 46 times more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected males.'
'Parastronaut' First Astronaut With Disability From ESA (Updated!)
'He had left Earth to get away from its gravitational field...'
MIT Self-Assembling Reprogrammable Materials
'Faster the cubes moved; faster the circle revolved; the pyramids raised themselves, stood bolt upright on their square bases...'
Mem, The All-Your-Memories, Super Note-Taking App
'Life experience is linearly additive, but the correlation of memory impressions is an unlimited expansion.'
Porcine Fat Cells For 3D-Printed Whole Pork Products
'I grabbed two Syntho-Steaks out of the freezer...'
LANIUS Loitering Drone Munition Scouts And Maps
'... micro-missiles proceeding at walking pace.'
Copilot Software AI Training Sued By Involuntary Contributors
'...we've promised him a generous pension from the royalties.'
Thin Film Dome Protects Cities From Nuclear Blasts
'What fabric can take that kind of a load? Synthetic spider silk.'
Mars Space Weather Alert (MSWA) System
'On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters... the storm was colored orange.'
Thermite's Robot Firefighter
Possibly worthy of Transformers!
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories