Namib beetle lives in African deserts where water is extremely rare. In fact, it’s hardly found anywhere other than in the ocean breeze (fog) that pays a visit once per day early in the morning. To survive, the bug collects microscopic water droplets from the fog by sticking its back out in the air.
The back of the insect is covered in tiny hydrophilic bumps that attract water droplets from the fog. Water droplets condense on the bumps and roll down the back into the insect’s mouth. The surface of the beetle’s back is extremely hydrophobic (repels water), so as soon as the droplet comes off the bump it has no choice but to roll down in the direction of the incline.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Inspired by this bug, a team of engineers in Boston are developing materials that mimic the way the insect extracts water from the ocean breeze. The researchers hope to bring their products to industrial scale.
As a fun fact, a science that looks into imitation of models and mechanisms found in nature to solve human problems is called biomimicry.