November 26, 2012
Beetle-Inspired Self-Filling Water Bottle Being Developed
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Drawing inspiration from a creature known as the Namib desert beetle, a US company has developed a prototype for a self-filling water bottle that could help hydrate people in hot, dry, drought-stricken parts of the world.
According to Phys.org reporter Nancy Owano, NBD Nano -- a start-up firm comprised of four recent university graduates -- mimicked the way that the insects collect moisture from the air in the development of their water bottle, which they claim can store as much as three liters of water per hour.
The Namib desert beetle is able to survive in a region which gets as little as one-half inch of annual rainfall thanks to the design of the bumps on the back of its shell. As humidity accumulates on the shell, water droplets form, rolling down the creature's back and directly into its mount, Owano explained.
"The NBD Nano team drew from the natural shell design in constructing a bottle that could take advantage of the same water-collecting process," she added. "The result is that the bottle is able to continually fill itself up. They describe their process as making use of a nano-scale surface to enhance water condensation. The surface of the bottle is covered with hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-repellent) materials."
The project is still in its earliest stages, according to BBC News, but NBD Nano co-founder Miguel Galvez told the British news agency that the company has already completed a proof of concept and is currently at work on the first fully-functional prototype of the water bottle. The company is hoping to make it so a fan can get air to pass over the bottle's surface, condense, and be collected.
"Dry places like the Atacama Desert or Gobi Desert don't have access to a lot of sources of water," Galvez said. "So if we're creating [several] liters per day in a cost-effective manner, you can get this to a community of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and other dry regions of the world. And if you can do it cheaply enough, then you can really create an impact on the local environment."
Owano said that the company is hoping to put their product for sale in either 2014 or 2015.
"A number of companies have recently been researching nature-inspired solutions to real-life problems," the BBC said. "Electronics firm Qualcomm studied light reflection on butterfly wings to design its Mirasol e-reader display. And Canadian company Whalepower mimics humpback whale flippers in its wind turbines and fans to reduce drag."