Designing smart functionalised surfaces for water harvesting

The United Nations estimates that over one in ten people across the world do not have access to clean water. Hence, affordable, eco-sustainable methods for water collection are a major global challenge facing society today, especially in developing countries. In this project, we will focus on Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world with 260M people, and it is estimated that more than 27M Indonesians still lack access to clean water. Insects and plants, faced by similar environmental stresses, have evolved extraordinary surface properties in order to collect, direct and generally manipulate the behaviour of water on their surfaces. We have recently outlined the mechanical, physical and chemical processes which enable this behaviour. In particular, inspired by Thuja plicata, a coniferous tree whose natural habitat is North Western America, the Badyal group has recently fabricated an easily fabricated mesh with efficient water collection behaviour (e.g. from fog and rainwater) using 3D printing technique. The major ambition of this project is to demonstrate that bio-inspired surfaces can be harnessed to help solve the clean water and water scarcity problem.

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