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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2014 Jun 11;6(11):8032-41. doi: 10.1021/am4053267. Epub 2014 Feb 13.

Branched ZnO wire structures for water collection inspired by cacti.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Texas at Arlington 500 W. First Street, Woolf Hall 226, Arlington, Texas 76019, United States.


In this work, motivated by an approach used in a cactus to collect fog, we have developed an artificial water-collection structure. This structure includes a large ZnO wire and an array of small ZnO wires that are branched on the large wire. All these wires have conical shapes, whose diameters gradually increase from the tip to the root of a wire. Accordingly, a water drop that is condensed on the tip of each wire is driven to the root by a capillary force induced by this diameter gradient. The lengths of stem and branched wires in the synthesized structures are in the orders of 1 mm and 100 μm, respectively. These dimensions are, respectively, comparable to and larger than their counterparts in the case of a cactus. Two groups of tests were conducted at relative humidity of 100% to compare the amounts of water collected by artificial and cactus structures within specific time durations of 2 and 35 s, respectively. The amount of water collected by either type of structures was in the order of 0.01 μL. However, on average, what has been collected by the artificial structures was 1.4-5.0 times more than that harvested by the cactus ones. We further examined the mechanism that a cactus used to absorb a collected water drop into its stem. On the basis of the gained understanding, we developed a setup to successfully collect about 6 μL of water within 30 min.

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