Mimicking a unique water collection-and-release feature found in plants with tiny conical “hairs” or microfibers on the surface of their leaves may enable a technology capable of pulling fresh water from the air.
Plants living in arid, mountainous and humid regions of the planet often rely on their leaves to obtain the moisture they need for survival by pulling mist out of the air. But how exactly they manage this feat has been a bit of a mystery—until now.
By studying the morphology and physiology of plants with tiny conical “hairs” or microfibers on the surface of their leaves, such as tomatoes, balsam pears and the flowersBerkheya purpea and Lychnis sieboldii, a team of researchers in Japan uncovered water collection-and-release secrets that may, in turn, one day soon “bioinspire” a technology to pull fresh water from the air to help alleviate global water shortages.
As the team reports in a story appearing on this week’s cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, they examined Lychnis sieboldii in detail and discovered a unique water collection-and-release feature: cone-shaped hairs with inner microfibers reversibly transform to crushed plates that “twist” perpendicularly in dry conditions.
“We zeroed in on the microstructure of the plants via advanced electron microscope technology and recorded the dynamic changes involved in the water collection process in the form of a movie,” explained Professor Shigeru Yamanaka, who is on the Faculty of Textile Science and Technology at Shinshu University.
What did this reveal? Microfibers found within the hairs appear to be responsible for both water storage and release. Depending on the moisture level in the air, when needed, water stored during wet conditions gets released onto the leaf in dry conditions.
At room temperature, Lychnis sieboldii hairs showed changes in their morphology depending on exposure to water. In a wet state, the hairs became cone-shaped immediately after a water droplet adhered to it. After drying, the cone shapes morphed into a perpendicularly twisted structure at a 90° angle. But when a droplet of water was placed on the hairs they reverted back to their initial cone shape, which may be a “shape memory” effect.
The team tapped simulations to help explain the formation of the twisted structure, which they believe “adds increased mechanical strength to the hairs.” Similar phenomena were found in the other plants with “hairy” leaves.
“Under dry conditions, the hairs also twisted in a similar manner,” said Yamanaka. “They converted to a cone shape, just like Lychnis sieboldii, when exposed to water droplets—suggesting that this strategy of water control is common among plants with similar hairs on their leaves’ surfaces.”
How might these findings one day help alleviate the world’s water shortage? “These plants give us great ideas worth mimicking,” noted Yamanaka. “Advanced fiber technology can be used to ‘replicate’ the plant hair’s fiber ‘net structure’ and enable the development of an apparatus capable of collecting water from the air in arid regions of the world.”
The Latest on: Global Water Shortages
via Google News
The Latest on: Global Water Shortages
- Global Health Crisis and Pesticideson December 1, 2019 at 9:53 pm
Glyphosate is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. It’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.
- Hack the Cape: Crisis or Opportunity?on December 1, 2019 at 7:00 pm
If the reserves run dry, Cape Town will be the first major city in the world with the dubious honor of shutting off its water supply. The citizens of Cape Town are responding with an equally ...
- John David: West Virginia's water crisis (Opinion)on November 30, 2019 at 4:15 pm
As West Virginians, we cannot afford to squander the opportunity to focus on water as we realize that coal, with global warming pressing for renewable and clean energy, is likely not the fuel of the ...
- Tackling climate crisis is what we should be doing, says new IMF bosson November 30, 2019 at 9:22 am
The climate crisis and financial stability are linked, she says, because if left unattended, global heating will threaten financial stability ... Sinkholes are appearing where the water has receded, ...
- This Is an Extinction Crisis, and Some Species Are Loving Iton November 30, 2019 at 12:00 am
Adding fuel to the fire, Britas Eriksson of the University of Groningen and Helmut Hillebrand of the University of Oldenburg, in a commentary in Science that accompanied the paper, controversially ...
- South Africa Unveils $61 Billion Plan to Tackle Water Shortageson November 29, 2019 at 3:15 am
South Africa intends spending 900 billion rand ($61 billion) over the next decade to improve its water-supply and storage infrastructure and tackle a growing shortage of the resource ... South Africa ...
- A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing townon November 27, 2019 at 4:12 am
The approaching bust is the result of three powerful forces: Fish are suffocating in oxygen-depleted waters, huge foreign trawlers are grabbing what’s left, and the water is heating up far more ...
- Global Mining Water & Wastewater Treatment Market Report 2019-2023: Focus on Growth Opportunities for Sustainable Solutionson November 21, 2019 at 4:04 pm
Market Overview The global mining industry is facing extremely ... as well as deepening water scarcity are only driving concerns. The new era of redefining the mining industry for tomorrow and ...
- China premier calls for more water diversion to ease shortageson November 18, 2019 at 11:17 pm
China needs to divert more water to its arid northern regions and invest more in water infrastructure as shortages get worse because of pollution, overexploitation and rising population levels, the ...
- Growth Opportunities for Sustainable Solutions in the Global Mining Water and Wastewater Treatment Market, Forecast to 2023on November 18, 2019 at 2:13 pm
The global mining industry is facing extremely significant challenges related to consumptionism and rising demands for mineral-based products.Declining richness and exhaustion of available commodities ...
via Bing News