Today’s Solutions: September 22, 2021

While solar stills have been around for some time already, there’s plenty of room for efficiency improvements. In a bid to do exactly that, scientists from Virginia Tech have developed a mangrove-inspired “synthetic tree” that mimics the natural process of transporting water from the roots to the leaves.

Currently, most variations of solar stills use an absorbent material to wick up non-potable water from a reservoir. Once it reaches the upper part of the device, the water is heated by sunlight, after which it evaporates into the air. The water vapor then hits a sloped ceiling and condenses, running down into a collection tray.

As explained by New Atlas, most of the existing solar stills work using capillary action, where the liquid climbs up through a narrow space by sticking to the edges and dragging other molecules upwards thanks to the liquid’s highly cohesive properties. Scaling this method, however, is rather challenging.

To overcomes this obstacle, the Virginia Tech team looked to nature for a more efficient water-wicking system. When it comes to plants, capillary action plays a minor role in the transportation of water. Most of the job is done through the process of transpiration — which allows plants to efficiently suck water up from their roots, through their stems and branches, and out through their leaves as water vapor.

Inspired by the transpiration process of plants, the research team developed their own water purification design. Their synthetic tree is made up of 19 tubes, 2.4 inches high, with an inner diameter of just 0.1 inches. The tubes pull water up to a small porous ceramic disk coated in graphite, which acts like the leaf as the evaporating surface.

After testing their new design, the scientists found that the synthetic tree was able to harvest three times more water than using a bulk reservoir alone. Next, the team plans to test taller trees, add more leaves, and use membranes to filter salt out of the water.

Solutions News Source Print this article
Todays Solutions

Wild solutions: Bruce the parrot make...

Bruce, a nine-year-old disabled parrot from New Zealand, has designed and uses his own prosthetic beak to the delight and ... Read More

Sunlight and saltwater is all you nee...

Researchers at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are working on a cooling system that requires ... Read More

Environmental DNA monitoring is the c...

One in four freshwater organisms are currently at risk of extinction, but saving aquatic species can be more difficult than ... Read More

This company offers accessible pharma...

During the pandemic, many of us relied on drive-through services to pick up essential medications or get a Covid test, ... Read More

Vertical modular farms aim to solve t...

Millions of people in the US experience food insecurity on a daily basis. This problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has ... Read More

Benefits of working out in the nude

We've written before about how spending time naked can improve your body image, and it’s well known that regular exercise ... Read More