Researchers create new material to harvest water from cloud, solar energy derived steam

In the continued effort to address the imminent water shortage, a research initiative of a team of researchers has led to an interesting finding. Inspired by the shape of cactus, tiny structures allow a newly created material to collect drinkable water from air during the day as well as in the night. This is enabled via combining two water harvesting technologies.

Meanwhile, the micro-architected hydrogel membrane can generate water in two ways: fog collection and steam generated through solar power. Typically, the two independent processes require two separate devices.

The findings is published in a paper in Nature Communications.

In fact, fog collection is exactly what it sounds to be. At night, along sea coasts, low-lying clouds are filled with water droplets. To obtain this water, devices that can be combined to collect those water droplets can convert fog into drinking water.

Interestingly, steam generation via solar power is another technique for water collection. In particular, this technique, works well in coastal areas as it enables water purification, albeit it works in the day instead at night. Elaborately, for the method, heat from the sun causes water to convert into steam, which can be condensed into drinking water.

Importantly, the two technologies operate in two different conditions, which is the reason, they require different materials and devices to be functional. In a new development, a material created at Caltech could coalesce the two technologies into one single device, thereby, enabling it to work all 24 hours of a day.

“As the population of the world continues to grow, water scarcity is a great problem that humanity will need to overcome,” stated one of the researchers.