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Nat Commun. 2012;3:1247. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2253.

A multi-structural and multi-functional integrated fog collection system in cactus.

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Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Sciences (BNLMS), Key Laboratory of Organic Solids, Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China.


Multiple biological structures have demonstrated fog collection abilities, such as beetle backs with bumps and spider silks with periodic spindle-knots and joints. Many Cactaceae species live in arid environments and are extremely drought-tolerant. Here we report that one of the survival systems of the cactus Opuntia microdasys lies in its efficient fog collection system. This unique system is composed of well-distributed clusters of conical spines and trichomes on the cactus stem; each spine contains three integrated parts that have different roles in the fog collection process according to their surface structural features. The gradient of the Laplace pressure, the gradient of the surface-free energy and multi-function integration endow the cactus with an efficient fog collection system. Investigations of the structure-function relationship in this system may help us to design novel materials and devices to collect water from fog with high efficiencies.

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