Warka Water

Just over a year ago, Smithsonian Magazine had an article on an insect-inspired rig to pull water out of the air. The inspiration was a Namibian beetle that sits on top of sand dunes and uses airflow across its body to extract dew. Because of our ongoing drought here in the NENW, I thought I’d take another look at the concept. This photoshop shows what the rig looks like:

Aliens have landed

Aliens have landed

While this is all cool and aerospace and everything, I’m inclined to think it’s mostly architects having fun. Not that it won’t perform as advertised, but that it doesn’t have to be that avant-garde to work.

1. That artistic outer screen is simply a support. I suspect a chain link cylinder would do almost as well, and it could be recycled as child restraints later.

2. The inner orange thing is just a net, cunningly sloped to funnel the dew. Bigger mesh than window screening, smaller than anti-bird nets. You could probably knit one out of old speaker cord.

3. And it most likely doesn’t even have to be that shape. A plain old funnel would likely work as well.  It’s round because it has to handle wind from any direction. In fact, the roundness probably lowers its efficiency. A simple slab would probably work as well, as long as it was positioned cross-wind.

I built a test rig last summer — simple sheet of the kind of netted plastic sheets you get with those small hardware store greenhouses, with lots of holes poked in the sheeting. It didn’t work, probably because it doesn’t get as humid here, and the day-night temperature swings aren’t as wide as in the Ethiopian highlands. I might wait until early September, when we do get some good day/night differences, thoroughly water the lawn around it, and see what happens. That won’t do me any good, but if it works it would be a nice proof of concept for other folks.

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