Ironically hailing from arid lands, the desert beetle was inspiration for preventing frost by creating a new type of technology to stop the ice from spreading. Science continues to draw inspiration from nature and the marvel of evolution. As they say, nature always find a way.
The Namib Desert is a coastal region in southwest Africa. It’s considered to be one of the driest and hottest places on Earth, with absolutely no source of standing water. And yet, the Namib Desert beetle, otherwise known as the fogstand beetle, survives just fine in the scorching heat. The insect has an exquisite way of assuring proper hydration.
There are tiny bumps across its dark shell that snatch moisture and collects it into drops. Its smoother parts repel the moisture, which create a pattern that the water is forced to take. Naturally, that path ends in the beetle’s mouth, which aids in its survival around the desert.
The water will be forced into a pattern
Researchers from Virginia Tech aim to mimic that highly useful ability in order to prevent frost. The inspiration was drawn from the beetle, by combining water-attracting patterns with a water-repelling surface, thus forcing the water to comply. The potentially ground-breaking technology was created through photolithography, which used chemical treatments to make microfabrication patterns.
In essence, frost forms as one tiny drop of water freezes over and then that influence spreads, creating bridge connections with other droplets. If the pattern is disrupted and the droplets are forced to stand at larger distances, then the frost will be prevented. That is where the beetle-inspired technology comes it, as it would force the droplets apart and manipulate the patterns. The effect of the treatment will create a dry zone around the ice droplet instead of frost.
The anti-frost technology was tested on a very small scale, but they hope it can be transferred to much larger sizes in the future. This will be especially helpful for airplanes, where lots of energy and funds are being used for the purpose of keeping windows and equipment free from condensation. It could save time and money for those in the aerospace industry, as well as wind energy industries.
The chemicals currently being used to prevent frost are very expensive. By creating these ‘micropatterns’ that forces the water droplets apart, frost will no longer form. According to co-author of the study, Patrick Collier, it could “result in huge cost savings”. The former methods will be gone, and the expenses will lower for keeping aeroplanes and wind turbines dry. And it was all inspired by the tiny dark beetle that roams around the desert.
Image source: photoshelter.com