Bug Technology You Can Drink

For far too long, scientists have ignored the obvious overlap between insects and drinking water. The connections are endless. Bugs drink water. People drink water. This list could go on and on. But there is one particularly interesting bug—the Namib desert beetle—whose water drinking habits are proving pretty interesting for entrepreneurs.

The beetle, endemic to Africa’s Namib desert — where there is just 1.3cm of rainfall a year — has inspired a fair few proof-of-concepts in the academic community, but this is the first time a self-filling water bottle has been proposed. The beetle survives by collecting condensation from the ocean breeze on the hardened shell of its wings. The shell is covered in tiny bumps that are water attracting (hydrophilic) at their tips and water-repelling (hydrophobic) at their sides. The beetle extends and aims the wings at incoming sea breezes to catch humid air; tiny droplets 15 to 20 microns in diameter eventually accumulate on its back and run straight down towards its mouth.

Now, a start-up company is applying this science to create a water bottle you never have to actually fill. Like the bug, if there’s moisture in the air, the bottle will absorb it and fill up for you. Which would be handy for anyone, but particularly for people stranded in the desert, who will not only be drinking water made from bug technology, but will, in all likelihood, be eating bugs as well. Circle of life …

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