Scientist Creates Self-Filling Water Bottle Inspired By African Beetle

By Alexandra Burlacu | Nov 23, 2012 12:36 PM EST

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Nature has been giving valuable (and often ignored) lessons to man since the dawn of time, and it has also inspired a self-filling nanotech bottle.

The Namib desert beetle lives in a part of the world where less than .5 inches of rain fall per year. To survive, the beetle has a remarkable and unique water harvesting technique, drawing water from the air. This beetle has inspired Deckard Sorensen to start a business, combining technology with the laws of nature.

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"Every morning this beetle climbs to the top of a sand dune, sticks its back to the wind, and drinks 12 percent of its weight in water," explained Sorensen, according to PRI. "We use nanotechnology to mimic this beetle's back so that we too can pull water from the air."

Water condenses in specific, hydrophilic areas of the beetle's back, and eventually flows to a storage area on the beetle. According to Sorensen, more than three quadrillion gallons of water in the air makes it either an incredibly rich resource or a very scarce one.

Sorensen coated a surface with hydrophilic and hydrophobic coatings to convert the beetle's natural ability into technology that man can use, and then used a fan to pass air over the coated surface. The water condensed on the surface and, eventually, Sorensen has managed to create a self-filling water bottle.

"We see this being applicable to anything from marathon runners to people in third-world countries, because we realize that water is such a large issue in the world today, and we want to try to alleviate those problems with a cost-efficient solution," Sorensen explained.

His company, NBD Nano, is also looking into how this technology might be used with plants, essentially increasing the amount of moisture they can pull from the air.

"We are looking to incorporate this in greenhouses or green roofs in the immediate future, and then later on, we're looking to see how far we can really scale this up to supply maybe farms or larger agricultural goals."

The process requires energy, but Sorensen insists that it's not much at all. According to him, all tests have been powered by solar cells and a rechargeable battery, minimizing energy use as much as possible. Moreover, if the device were attached to a car or a boat, or even a running man, it might not even need that power supply to move the air over the ingeniously coated surface.

The maritime environment could be a very large market, said Sorensen, because humidity is constantly regenerated over a large body of water. This could potentially offer a potable water source that can run off solar energy while at sea, pulling humidity from the air. Sorensen hopes to bring his self-filling water bottle to market by 2014.

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