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A New Droplet-Forming Technique Could Help Fog Harvesting

By exploring the physics of water droplet formation, a research team’s method could make it easier for thirty cities to gather drinking water from the air.

A New Droplet-Forming Technique Could Help Fog Harvesting
[Image: Water droplets via Shutterstock]

Want to harvest water from fog? It’s an old technology that already helps provide drinking water in some of the world’s drier climates (see previously here, here, and here). But the process could now be made more efficient with a new method of bringing together droplets of water on a surface so they form viable beads or channels.

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At the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ph.D research scientist Jonathan Boreyko is working on a way of creating interlocking beads of water, or “interface bilayers,” on an oil-infused surface.

“This is the first time that lipid bilayers have been suspended in an ambient environment, instead of in a submerged liquid reservoir,” Boreyko says. “We envision that our air-stable droplet interface bilayers will enable the robust fabrication, manipulation, and utilization of functional droplet networks.”

The idea could be useful to improve fog harvesting. By exploring the physics of droplet formation, Boreyko’s team is showing how one might channel water as it hits the surface of a device (like this one).

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“We are not suggesting that our droplet networks themselves will necessarily help condensation or fog harvesting,” Boreyko says. “Rather, it is the understanding that droplets can either exhibit coalescence or non-coalescence depending on the oil thickness that should be helpful in the design of water harvesting systems on oil-infused surfaces.”

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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