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  • Cacti and desert beetles can live in arid environments because theyve adapted to

  • suck water out of the air. So, can we do that if were in a drought?

  • Hi guys, Amy here for DNews. We know the Earth’s climate is warming from a mix of natural changes,

  • including solar activity, and man-made causes, namely greenhouse gases and aerosols. This

  • is taking a toll on global weather. There is more water vapour in the atmosphere so

  • rainfall is increasing in tropical areas, but drier areas are experiencing some of the

  • worst droughts in history.

  • The thing is, even in deserts, there's humidity in the air. So, to help tackle the world's

  • drought problems, a team of scientists from Harvard, with support from the Department

  • of Energy, looked to plants and insects that are able to pull water out of the air to survive

  • in the desert.

  • This biologically-inspired technology described in the journal Nature involves collecting

  • water from air by condensing water vapor on surfaces inspired by beetles, cacti and other

  • desert-dwelling organisms. They looked at the bumpy surfaces of desert beetlesshells

  • and found that, if the geometry is right, water droplets grow faster on the tops of

  • convex bumps than on a raised flat surface of the same height. They looked at the asymmetric

  • structure of cactus spines and found they had the best topography to guide the condensation

  • off the bumps to be collected. And, the slippery surface of carnivorous pitcher plants inspired

  • the researches to guide those formed water droplets down a smooth, non-stick surface.

  • The team combined these elements with a material that repels liquid called Slippery Liquid-Infused

  • Porous Surfaces technology or SLIPS. The three nature-inspired inventions combined with the

  • SLIPS technology make an excellent collector to gather water from the air! When set up,

  • any atmospheric moisture pools on the bumps and flows as water droplets down the asymmetrically

  • pitted water-repellant surface! But could it make a difference? I asked the

  • paper’s lead author Kenneth Park. He roughly calculates that the volume of air the size

  • of a house in a desert holds about 16 liters of water. That’s not a lot for people in

  • developed countries, but in desert regions it could be life changing access to drinking

  • and cooking water. And of course in humid areas, that number rises even more. Basically,

  • as long as surface temperature gets below the dew point, there will be condensation

  • to harness from the air.

  • The challenge now facing the team is controlling the size of the water droplets and the direction

  • in which they flow. But with the details worked out, this could be a step towards developing

  • a passive system capable of collecting and transporting atmospheric water to a reservoir.

  • But remember, while this technology is great, it’s a proof of concept. We still need to

  • conserve resources, especially those of us living in areas affected by drought, like

  • California, which is experiencing the worst drought in more than a century.

  • So with scientists developing these kinds of technologies, just how serious is the global

  • drought that were looking to thin air as a water source? Julia’s got the information

  • on this current crisis in this episode right here.

  • Some people are creeped out drinking recycled waterwould you feel weird drinking water

  • pulled from the air? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe so you never

  • miss an episode of DNews.

Cacti and desert beetles can live in arid environments because theyve adapted to

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