How do you harvest water in a desert? Look to local inhabitant, the Namib beetle!
Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has created the “Airdrop”, an irrigation system that extracts moisture from dry desert air. Linacre utilizes biomimicry ideals and looks to the Namib beetle, a native desert insect that is able to survive the extreme conditions.
The Namib Desert, located on the southwest coast of Africa, is home to the wildly adaptive Namib beetle. Amazingly, the beetle can live in areas where it only rains half an inch per year! It harvests moisture from the air that condenses on its wings in the early morning. The surface of its wings is textured with bumps and valleys that collect water.
Linacre’s design mimics this idea on a larger scale. “Aidrop” consists of a self-powering device that pumps moisture into a network of underground pipes, where it cools and condensates (into water). Then, the pipes deliver water to nearby, thirsty plants. Linacre’s calculations show that one cubic meter of air can yield approximately 11.5 milliliters of water. In layman’s terms, this is only about half an ounce of water. With more research and development, the “Airdrop” could bring those numbers higher.
Such an innovative system could provide water regularly to the world’s most arid regions. It could promote health and economic growth in climates that fail to support vegetation or provide clean water.
Don’t worry, Linacre’s design is not going unnoticed. “Airdrop” is the grand prize winner of the James Dyson Award for 2011.