A young Australian is $15,000 USD richer and the proud winner of this year's prestigious James Dyson Award, thanks to an invention that was inspired by the small Namib beetle, that resides in one of the world's most arid regions - The Namib Desert.
27-year old Edward Linacre edged out hundreds of innovators in the International design competition with his ingenious irrigation system that can draw water from thin air - Literally!.
Dubbed Airdrop, it was designed on the principle that even the most arid air contains water molecules. The trick to drawing them out is lowering the air temperature to the point of condensation. Using a network of underground pipes, Airdrop pumps the hot desert air into the cooler soil until the water molecules it contains, condense and drip straight onto the plant roots.
Using the rudimentary prototype that he built in his mother's backyard, Mr. Linacre was able to extract 11.5 ml. from every cubic meter of air in the dry Australian desert. He believes that even more can be extracted with some further tweaks.
The best part is, that unlike other condensation methods that require the use of a lot of energy, this simple contraption is totally green. It captures energy from the desert wind and transfers it to the small battery that powers the turbine and irrigation pump. On days when there is no wind, Airdrop's solar panels take over. This makes it economical to deploy to farmers suffering from water shortages all around the world especially, in third-world countries.
The young inventor, a former student at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology decided to embark on this project after witnessing what was dubbed as Australia's worst drought in a century. Looking around for inspirational ways to extract moisture from air, he stumbled upon the Namib beetle, indigenous to the South Africa's Namib Desert that gets less than half an inch of rain annually.
In order to survive, the clever critter has adopted by developing tiny hydrophilic bumps that are capable of attracting really small water droplets from the fog that covers the desert at night. When enough condenses, it becomes heavy and rolls down the insect's water-resistant back and straight into its thirsty mouth - Ingenious!
Resources: Telegraph.co.uk, treehugger.com