Science 2 min read

Slippery yet Rough-Surfaced Material Harvests Water in Air



University of Texas researchers designed a new slippery rough surface that harvests ambient water.

According to a study published by the researchers in the journal Science Advances, the new slippery rough surface was developed through the process of biomimicry. This SRS is designed to increase the efficiency of the harvesting water through cost-efficient, biological strategies.

Simon Dai, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, took inspiration from the carnivorous pitcher plant while creating the SRS. When insects land on the walls of the plant, they slip into the digestive system because the plant walls have a slippery surface.

The other inspiration was the surface architecture of a rice leaf. As per Dai, the structure “has nanoscale directional grooves on its surface that allows water to be removed very easily in one direction but not the other.”

The researchers also put additional directional grooves to give the surface of the structure a microscale roughness. The design also increased the surface area which allows the surface to capture more water.

The experiments conducted by Dai and his team showed that the slippery rough surface could gather water droplets present in the air at a much faster rate than other similar designs.

Also, the data gathered during the simulation of the SRS material in actual water-harvesting applications shows that it could collect about 120 liters of water per square meter of the surface per day if produced at scale.

To date, water harvesting needs highly sophisticated procedures and equipment. Most harvesting technologies today reportedly suffer from water loss because of the inefficiencies of the surfaces.

One of the most common surfaces used today is the hydrophilic surface. This kind of surface was once considered a breakthrough because of the high surface energies that attract water. However, one major problem with this surface is that water forms a sheet and sticks to the surface, preventing water from consistently flowing.

The team’s current goal is to develop the pitcher plant-inspired slippery surface with hydrophilic chemistry.

Where else do you think this slippery rough surface material could have useful applications?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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