ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ   TKSST is observing a slow July posting schedule. Back at it in August. Happy summer!
The Kid Should See This

Can Namib Desert beetles help us solve our drought problems?

Can we pull enough water out of the air to sustain drought-stricken places around the planet? It might help to Think Like A Tree… or a Namib Desert Beetle called the Stenocara gracilipes, who harvests water from the early morning fog in southern Africa’s arid Namib Desert:

To drink water, the S. gracilipes stands on a small ridge of sand using its long, spindly legs. Facing into the breeze, with its body angled at 45°, the beetle catches fog droplets on its hardened wings. Its head faces upwind, and its stiff, bumpy outer wings are spread against the damp breeze.

Minute water droplets (15-20 µm in diameter) from the fog gather on its wings; there the droplets stick to hydrophilic (water-loving) bumps, which are surrounded by waxy, hydrophobic troughs. Droplets flatten as they make contact with the hydrophilic surfaces, preventing them from being blown by wind and providing a surface for other droplets to attach.

Accumulation continues until the combined droplet weight overcomes the water’s electrostatic attraction to the bumps as well as any opposing force of the wind; in a 30 km/h breeze, such a droplet would stick to the wing until it grows to roughly 5 mm in diameter; at that point it will roll down the beetle’s back to its mouthparts.

Biomimicry — imitating nature’s best ideas in our design of materials, structures, and systems — has inspired us to invent and improve upon fog-catching nets, self-filling water bottles, water collection irrigation systems, and other solutions.

Read more about the Namib Desert Beetles at Wired.

Watch more from Think Like a Tree on this site, as well as this: Hydrophobic metal made with laser-etched microscopic patterns.

This feature is being tested. Saves will disappear if you clear cookies. Find saved videos here.

🌈 Related videos

The Unseen Sea, a time lapse of clouds and fog around San Francisco

Rion Nakaya

How Biomimicry is Inspiring Human Innovation

Rion Nakaya

Building the solar system to scale in the Nevada desert

Rion Nakaya

Fish and frogs that live out of water

Rion Nakaya

A waterless & chemical-free sound wave fire extinguisher

Rion Nakaya

Hydrophobic metal made with laser-etched microscopic patterns

Rion Nakaya

Paragliding Above Extreme Desert Sands

Rion Nakaya

Giant wingtip vortices in the fog as an airplane lands

Rion Nakaya

Superbloom: How Death Valley Springs to Life

Rion Nakaya

 
Browse the TKSST Video Collections

Get 7 smart videos delivered every week.

 

Subscribe