Water harvesting through biomimicry was as easy as studying the Stenocara beetle in the Namibian desert for researcher and zoologist at Oxford University Andrew Parker.
Even some of the most advanced dew harvesters used in Chile and Peru using harvesting nets, have not been able to collect as much water from the wind and fog as the prototypes Andrew Parker created based on the Stenocara with an efficiency several times superior.
By using biomimicry, technology advances millions of years in just a few years with studies of creatures that have done what we aspire to do, and the Stenocara is a perfect example of how we can learn from biomimicry for more sustainable tomorrow.
So what is so special about this beetle that harvests its own water in the most arid desert region on the face of the Earth? Bumps, wax and gutters.
That is really all there is to it. The Stenocaras shell is armor-like and covered with bumps that have smooth peaks much like glass that easily allows water to condense into droplets that then slide down the slops into troughs (both covered in a Teflon-like wax) and the water goes straight to the beetles neck and down, around to the mouth for consumption.
Theoretically, what we do know about condensation is that the surface where water intends to condense needs to remain cool enough for the stored heat energy in water vapor to become liquid, and thinner surfaces are best for this, which is why the beetle has glass like bumps that readily distribute the heat into the rest of the beetles body, keeping it a little warmer and well hydrated.
In an example like this, it only takes a little bit of thought on the part of the do-it-yourselfer to create strategies similar to those used by the Namibian Stenocara.
Some people have already jumped the initiative on this, with dented metal roofs built on cardboard with pipes that run cold geothermal water underneath the surface mimicking the beetles shell and blood stream to do almost the same job, but on a far larger scale how about producing enough water to take a bath or supply ample drinking water for 5 people per day, even in the aridest of deserts?
Water harvesting through biomimicry is about being sustainable in a tomorrow that could be as bleak as Mad Max or as beautiful as Thomas Moores Utopia; it all depends on how we deal with the knowledge we already have, right now to build the self-sufficient America our forefathers envisioned.
Beetle’s Shell Offers Clues to Harvesting Water in the Desert – Bijal P. Trivedi
for National Geographic Today November 1, 2001
Stenocara Beetle Images – Google Image Search