Tree-Inspired Water Harvesting
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In this work, we were motivated to develop novel devices for water harvesting inspired by natural trees, and to understand their collection efficiency and working principles. We accomplished that with scale-model and large-scale fog harps, floating leaves, and synthetic trees. Fluids mechanics, physics, and thermodynamics were applied to solve the problems and rationalize the results. Redwood-inspired fog harps were designed with stainless steel vertical wires, using 3D-printing and laser-cutting techniques. Fog harps always harvested more water than any of the meshes, tested both under heavy fog and light fog conditions. The aerodynamic efficiency, deposition efficiency, and sliding efficiency were calculated to compare the fog harvesting performance. These findings provide insight into the new design of fog harvesters with high-efficiency fog harvesting performance, and future development of large fog harps, applied into regions even with light fog conditions, as an economically viable means. synthetic trees were fabricated with a nanoporous ceramic disk and silicone tubes. This tree system was tested in an environmental chamber (6 cm short trees) or a plant growth chamber (3m tall trees), both with controlled ambient humidities. The system pressure was calculated with Darcy's equation, Poiseuille equation and Laplace equation. The stable transpiration can happen to any scalable tree, which pumps water up an array of large tubes. Our synthetic trees, like natural trees, have the ability to lift water across a wide range of water temperatures and ambient humidities. They can be used as the large-scale evaporation-driven hydraulic pump, for example, pumped storage hydropower, filtration, underground water extraction.
General Audience Abstract
The purpose of this work is to investigate and characterize novel techniques for water harvesting that are inspired by natural trees. We are interested in two modes of water harvesting in particular: fog harps and synthetic trees. Fog harps were comprised of only vertical wires, inspired by the parallel structures of redwoods, which can capture and shed off fog droplets efficiently. Fog harps harvested more water than the traditional mesh nets, both under heavy fog and light fog conditions. Redwood-inspired fog harps have the high-efficient fog harvesting performance. They can be set up at coastal deserts to collect water from fog, where there is scarce rainfall but plenty of fog, like Chile, Peru and South Africa. Synthetic trees were designed with nanoporous disk (leaf) and tubes (xylem conduits), inspired by the transpiration process in natural trees. This transpiration-powered pump can lift water against the gravity at large scales, driven by the water evaporating from the nanopores. They can be used as the large-scale evaporation-driven hydraulic pump, for example, pumped storage hydropower, filtration, underground water extraction.
- Doctoral Dissertations