Bridging the Opportunity Divide

From Fog To Faucet? Read About This Innovative Source For Drinking Water

June 16, 2014
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From Fog To Faucet? Read About This Innovative Source For Drinking Water
A group of MIT scientists are exploring fog harvesting as a mean to battle droughts. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Researchers develop a fog net that could help solve America's drought, one droplet at a time.

Can you imagine turning fog, which is so annoying to drive in, to practical use as drinking water?

That’s just what a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Pontifical Catholic University did, reports the Washington Post — and it just might be a solution to drought in America.

While fog collection has been around for thousands of years in various ways, shapes, and forms, this team’s design is the most efficient and practical method out there. Using an innovative mesh that contains very tightly spaced strands of stainless steel, the system traps water as fog passes through it.

This is no ordinary window screen, though. MIT tapped mechanical engineering professor Gareth McKinley to create a coating that would make the water droplets stick while also making sure they could slide down and be collected.

The result: A technology that can harvest 10 percent of fog into potable water, which is five times the amount of any predecessors. Although this quantity may sound modest, with scale and over time, the collection adds up. With this team’s continuing research, fog can become a legitimate water source used by millions of people.

The MIT and Pontifical Catholic group did their testing in the Chilean desert, though the fog nets can be used anywhere — including drought-stricken California.

With the water shortage on America’s west coast being a hot topic in recent years, fog catching could be one simple fix to the enormous problem. Constructed from stainless steel (substance already widely used), this technology is practical and applicable. And, with residents being asked to cut back water consumption by 20 percent, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, any help to the problem should be welcome.

McKinley envisions fog-heavy areas such as the San Francisco Bay to benefit most from the nets, with other dry areas also making use of this remarkable innovation.

While fog was once at best, a natural beauty and at worst, a safety hazard – now it is showing its worth as a valuable resource.

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