A simple device, inspired by the beaks of shorebirds, can harvest drops of water from fog and dew. Its developers say it could help drought-prone communities around the world meet their need for drinkable water.
University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor Cheng Luo and his doctoral student Xin Heng came up with their design after noting how long-billed shorebirds with thin beaks get water.
Birds like sandpipers and stilts push liquid back into their throats by opening and closing their beaks. So the researchers hinged two rectangular glass plates together. When the collector is open, it provides a large surface area where beads of fog can condense. As it closes, the water drops slide into a collection tube near the hinge.
Writing in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Luo reports that a single 25-by-10 centimeter prototype harvested about 15 milliliters of water in a half hour.
Over a two-hour span, it gathered 400 to 900 times more liquid than any other natural or artificial fog-collector.