Harvesting fog in order to bolster water supplies is not a new endeavor by any means, as anyone who lives in an area beset by low-hanging clouds will tell you. However, doing so effectively is another matter altogether.
In order to pull water from the air and into a vessel for collection, one must set up a mesh net perpendicular to the ground. The net needs to be set up so that wind can blow through it, which helps the water collection, but for something that is seemingly so simple, there are a lot of specifications that need to be just right.
Jonathan Boreyko is an engineer working at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University who wants to make harvesting fog just a little bit easier. He explains that if the mesh is too big, the water won’t be trapped, “[b]ut if you make them too small, the water is going to get clogged within a matter of seconds because of surface tension, and so it won’t slide down and won’t be easily collected.”
With that in mind, Boreyko decided to collaborate with an industrial designer from Virginia Tech, Brook Kennedy, in order to come up with the most efficient design possible.
The team named the prototype they came up with the “fog harp” because it contains only vertical wires, rather than vertical and horizontal like a classic net. Kennedy shared that the redwood forests of California were the inspiration behind the innovative design. “Their needles aren’t shaped like volleyball nets or screen door mesh,” said Kennedy.
“They’re linear, and that was the little bit of insight that connected with what Jonathan had been working on,” he continued. Unlike traditional fog nets, the water can’t get trapped in the needles because it just drips straight down, there’s nothing else standing in its way.