This water harvesting interface is considered “superior” Credit: Representational image

A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IIT-G), have come up with a successful method of harvesting drinking water from humid air.

They have used the principle of hydrophobicity, meaning the fear of water, which is displayed by the leaves of some plants such as lotus where they repel water through the means of a layer of trapped air between the leaf surface and the water droplet.

The team was led by Dr Uttam Manna, who is an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department and Centre of Nanotechnology, IIT Guwahati. Kousik Maji, Avijit Das and Manideepa Dhar were the other research scholars in the team. The paper, along with the results, has been published in the journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry recently.

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IIT Guwahati later released a statement where it was stated that scientists around the world have been on the lookout for ways to collect and conserve water through non-traditional methods. To devise a method, experts took inspiration from nature where some certain animals and plants have strategies to develop water out of the air if their region of habitat has scanty rainfall.

“Such water-harvesting techniques use the concept of hydrophobicity or water-repelling nature of some materials,” lead researcher Dr Manna said in a statement. He went on to explain that such simple hydrophobicity will not work in other cases as “high moisture content can displace the trapped air and cause permanent damage.”

The team used the concept of Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces or SLIPS to mimic the pitcher plant’s mechanism. They created the SLIPS by spraying a sponge-like porous polymeric material which was placed atop a regular A4 paper used in the academics. This was then topped with chemically modulated hydrophilic spots followed by a coat of a couple of oils — natural olive oil and synthetic krytox.

As per Dr Manna, this water harvesting interface is “superior”, in terms of efficiency, to other projects of water harvesting that are inspired by nature. “We have produced a highly efficient water harvesting interface where the fog collecting rate is as high as 4400 ± 190 mg/ cm2/ h”.

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