Self-filling water bottle takes cues from desert beetle

Nov 25, 2012 by Nancy Owano weblog
Credit: Moongateclimber / Wikipedia Commons

(Phys.org)—Biomimicry is the term given to using nature as an inspiration for sustainable technology ideas, and a young company has joined the biomimicry brigade with its prototype self filling water bottle, which mimics the Namib desert beetle. NBD Nano, a startup of four graduates with degrees in biology, organic chemistry, and mechanical engineering, hopes to bring their prototype to market. They say that, like this beetle, their bottle can pull water from the air. Their self-filling water bottle is said to be capable of storing up to three liters every hour.

The desert beetle in focus can live in an area which gets only 0.5" of rainfall a year. Its shell is covered in bumps, and the way the bumps are constructed are key to its survival. Humidity in the air accumulates on the shell until form. They roll down the beetle's back and directly into its mouth. The NBD Nano team drew from the natural shell design in constructing a bottle that could take advantage of the same water-collecting process. The result is that the bottle is able to continually fill itself up. They describe their process as making use of a nano-scale surface to enhance . The surface of the bottle is covered with hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-repellent) materials.

They would not be the first to study the Namib beetle's modus operandi for surviving in harshly . National Geographic in 2001 said scientists were studying the beetle, noting how the beetle can survive via its bumpy shell drawing its drinking water from winds. Zoologist Andrew Parker of the University of Oxford detailed how it was an efficient water-harvester in capturing water from the wind. Parker, who reported his findings in Nature, suggested that the shell was a promising model for designing inexpensive tent coverings and that could collect water for drinking and for agriculture in arid regions.

As for NBD Nano, they are only in prototype stage. "We have developed a proof of concept and [are] currently creating our first fully-functional prototype," Miguel Galvez, one of the co-founders, said.

How much water does the bottle harvest from air? Galvez told the BBC that "We think our initial prototype will collect anywhere from half a liter of water to three liters per hour, depending on local environments."

They have varied applications in mind. They list enhanced dehumidification for households; potable water for military operations; water for greenhouses to support plant life; and potable water for third world nations.

"We realize that water is such a large issue in the world today, and we want to try to alleviate those problems with a cost-efficient solution," said Deckard Sorensen, another company co-founder. Sorenson said the company is looking to incorporate the bottle in greenhouses or green roofs in the immediate future, but later on will be looking to see how far they can scale up to supply larger agricultural goals.

NBD Nano plans to enter the worldwide marketplace between 2014 and 2015.

Explore further: Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

More information: www.nbdnano.com/

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User comments : 24

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MR166
4.1 / 5 (9) Nov 25, 2012
This is a fantastic product, I hope that it comes to fruition.
kevinrtrs
2.3 / 5 (10) Nov 25, 2012
I certainly applaud the idea and the effort that's gone into creating a copy of the design of the beetle's back.

As per usual there will be attendant problems associated with the technology that will become apparent[or has already done so] that will liimit it's use. One such problem might be the growth of fungus on the surface of the bottle at the site of water condensation which will need to be carefully removed.
Such is life.
bearly
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 25, 2012
Where can I buy a few of these?lol
I have often thought that it would be nice, because of its weight, if there was such a thing as "dehydrated water" this product if it comes to life would basically be just that. I WANT!
Feldagast
1 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2012
You obviously didn't read the article very carefully.

"As for NBD Nano, they are only in prototype stage. "We have developed a proof of concept and [are] currently creating our first fully-functional prototype," Miguel Galvez, one of the co-founders, said."
packrat
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 25, 2012
If those folks can get this working and sell the things they are going to get seriously rich! Good for them!
kochevnik
2 / 5 (4) Nov 25, 2012
It would be interesting to see this adopted on a large scale. It could be the basis of terraforming barren areas like African Sahara and the expanding desert in South America.
Patricia68
5 / 5 (3) Nov 25, 2012
Wow! This will be a huge boon to all humankind.
matthew_moglia
4 / 5 (2) Nov 25, 2012
go to the NBD website. The bio of the co-founder is poorly written; "While this is his second stint at starting a company…" stint? and they have a gmail address listed for their main contact. Doesn't appear to be any money or experienced businessmen behind this.
ormondotvos
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
It WILL be developed. Surprised they're not on Kickstarter.
Neurons_At_Work
1 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2012
There are articles all over Google mimicking this one dating back to June 2006. Developed by MIT, this material, along with a number of working prototypes using it or similar tech., harvest fog by attracting/condensing/channeling the droplets into a storage medium. Apparently this light morning fog is a common occurrence in some arid regions, including the African deserts where this Stenocara gracilipes beetle makes its home.
_traw_at
not rated yet Nov 26, 2012
There are researchers, organizations, and conferences dedicated to the goal of capturing and utilizing dew. Google for OPUR, the International Organization For Dew Utilization, and have a look at this history of the subject:
http://www.rexres...ells.htm

The methods are Air Wells, Dew ponds, and Fog Fences. It is natural that some of them would use biomimicry to attain the goal of capturing dew.
A brilliant variation of this that I really like is saltwater or seawater greenhouses.
ADD: It is quite probable that the UV light from the sun will sterilize or at least reduce the risk of fungal growth on the condensing surfaces.
hjbasutu
1.8 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2012
a fully functional device will probably be banned from the general public...free energy has been banned, effective cheap cures have been cruelly suppressed...and will a very cheap a source of clean water be allowed..?i think no bcoz water like electricity and oil are resources which are used to control people and i guess you know what power hungry will do..
aaron1960
3 / 5 (4) Nov 26, 2012
getting rid of water dependancies will free mankind in so many ways. This allows people to gather their own water from the air and not require municipal water. Land development potential alone will allow the population of plannet earth to double or quadrouple without ill effects. Removing water from the air will also assist in offsetting the greenhouse effect while providing free water as a bonus.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
I wonder how big it can be scaled up? If you had one a couple hundred feet high, I wonder how much water that device could harvest?
Erik
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
Bermuda grass as a leaf surface that collects water from the air. It would be yet another biological system to model. Perhaps this property could be bioengineered into the leaves of some of our crops
Erik
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
"has a leaf structure"
Erik
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
I read once that archeologists found an ancient Greek site in semi-arid Central Asia with water collectors. Shallow clay basins were filled with pyramids of loose fitting, irregular shaped rocks. The night chilled the rocks, which condensed water from the morning air. A pipe then transported the water to a storage tank. The village had several of them.
Alexander Riccio
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
go to the NBD website. The bio of the co-founder is poorly written; "While this is his second stint at starting a company…" stint? and they have a gmail address listed for their main contact. Doesn't appear to be any money or experienced businessmen behind this.


.......and, the problem is where?? The CEO was invented because way back in the day, a brilliant engineer was the president of a company - busy producing incredible products and actually running the company - with no time to deal with the bureaucratic aspect of a company.

That said:
A) Failure is a very important experience - although success on the first try isn't necessarily bad :D

B) They can improve their image very quickly, if need be. Hover provides personal email addresses (I.E. alexander@riccio.com), about.me provides professional-looking pages, and offers fantastic business cards.
Birger
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
This device only works where the content of water vapor in the air is high -like the coastal area of the Namib desert.
.
I don't see this working in very dry air, like in Sahara (or for that matter, in Southern California during summer).
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
I don't see this working in very dry air, like in Sahara

The Namib DESERT beetle referred to in the article seems to think otherwise.

And from what I gather the Namib is actually drier than the Sahara. Southern California in mid-summer is wetlands by comparison.
aaron1960
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
Very surprised at the lack of media attention to this huge development. Water supplies are in the realms of thousands of trillions of dollars annualy spent world-wide by everyone on the planet.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2012
Water supplies are in the realms of thousands of trillions of dollars annualy spent world-wide by everyone on the planet.

Now THAT would be surprising as the gross world product is about 70-80 trillion dollars.
I'm sure not every one of us spends "thousands of trillions of dollars" per year on water. At least my water bill isn't nearly that size (or you must live Simbabwe, which had a hyperinflation of the Simbabwe-dollar of more than a trillion percent in 2006-2009 before they just dumped it altogether)
Bog_Mire
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2012
so you manufacture these with anti-bacterial plastics and put them on your mud-hut roofs - then siphon your collections into more anti-bacterial plastic bladders in hollow wall cavities or cellars underground. you create the same roofed structures to water your cattle and store your cattle feed in. then you go bigger again for your crop watering and grain storage.
aaron1960
not rated yet Nov 29, 2012
Very surprised at the lack of media attention to this huge development. Water supplies are in the realms of thousands of trillions of dollars annualy spent world-wide by everyone on the planet.


oops..
Thousands of Billions of Dollars spent Annually by everyone combined.