Dec. 26 (UPI) -- A new study may have the answers for how to gather water from ambient air, fog and condensation, taking inspiration from lifeforms in the desert.
The research, published Monday in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, is focused on how to most efficiently collect water from various surfaces.
"We thought: 'How can we gather water from the ambient air around us?'" Bharat Bhushan, the Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University, said in a news release. "And so, we looked to the things in nature that already do that: the cactus, the beetle, desert grasses."
Much of Bhushan's work surrounds bringing natural fixes to societal problems. Along those lines, his latest research focused on life that survives on minimal water intake.
Specifically, Bhushan examined at how cacti, beetles and desert grass all collect water from night fog, and then filter it through their roots or reservoir.
"The beetle's surface material is heterogeneous, with hydrophilic spots surrounded by hydrophobic regions, which allows water to flow more easily to the beetle's mouth," Bhushan said.
Along with a team of Ohio State University researchers, Bhushan used 3D printers to build surfaces with a bump, and created foggy environments with a commercial humidifier to observe which solution took in the most water.
They figured that conical objects, similar to the shape of a cactus, brought in more water than cylindrical objects because water gathers at the cone's tip and flows to its bottom reservoir. They also learned that water flowed more quickly through grooved surfaces, comparable to that of grass.
The team found that hydrophilic cone surfaces helped bead the water up a lot more than absorbent surfaces.
"Water supply is a critically important issue, especially for people of the most arid parts of the world," Bhushan said. "By using bio-inspired technologies, we can help address the challenge of providing clean water to people around the globe, in as efficient a way as possible."