Addressing water scarcity, inspired by a desert beetle
LOOKING TO NATURE FOR ANSWERS TO WATER SCARCITY
Climate change, drought, population growth, and agriculture all contribute to a worldwide scarcity of clean water.
THE DESIGN SOLUTION
INSECT-INSPIRED TECHNOLOGY FOR PASSIVE WATER COLLECTION
NBD Nanotech's coatings that enhance water condensation are inspired by the Namib Beetle, which uses its shell to harvest water from morning fog in the desert.
" Using off-the-shelf fog nets coated with our solution, we’ve been able to boost collection efficiency by five to nine times in comparison with uncoated nets."
— Deckard Sorensen, President/Founder
Global thirst is growing
One in nine people worldwide lack daily access to drinkable water. Even in California, where daily access is not in question but 80 percent of water is consumed by agriculture, the worst drought in a thousand years is straining the infrastructure and driving up crop prices. The world urgently needs a sustainable way to collect clean water even in the earth's most arid regions.
HOW IT WORKS
The shell of the desert-dwelling Namib Beetle gathers moisture from the morning fog.
NBD Nanotechnologies' durable spray or dip coating emulates the beetle's shell.
Coating plastic/polypropylene or stainless steel meshes improves their ability to capture and channel small droplets of fog.
The coating resists corrosion from sun, sand, and salty air to protect groundwater from contamination.
Inspired by the Namib Beetle's ability to survive its harsh environment, Boston College seniors Deckard Sorensen and Miguel Galvez created the first version of their product and entered it in the school's 2012 Venture Competition. After winning the competition's $10,000 prize, the pair turned down multiple job offers and incorporated NBD Nanotechnologies Inc. two days after graduation. While they initially explored a wide range of industrial applications, they soon realized that their technology could help address the growing global demand for clean water.
Q & A
Why is NBD Nanotechnologies' technology revolutionary?
It can prevent water from sticking to a surface — as with fog nets or wind turbines — as well as enhancing condensation in places like fossil-fuel power plants, which improves system efficiency and reduces carbon emissions.
How does NBD Nanotechnologies address the challenge of water scarcity?
Preliminary pilot testing near San Francisco has already demonstrated the technology's ability to improve fog capture rates up to ninefold. Water quality is verified at each step of testing, proving that the water produced is clean and environmentally sound.
LEARN MORE ABOUT NBD NANOTECHNOLOGIES
NBD Nanotechnology's initial goal is to provide clean water for irrigation at California vineyards, which need relatively little water compared to larger agricultural users. The company's larger-scale pilot testing is funded in part by a $500,000 Phase-2 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It also sponsored a crowdsourced GrabCAD Challenge inviting entrants around the world to design a frame for its newest fog-collecting device, which is now in operation at the California pilot sites.