Access to a safe supply of water is a human right. However, with growing populations, global warming and contamination due to human activity, it is one that is increasingly under threat. It is hoped that nature can inspire the creation of materials to aid in the supply and management of water, from water collection and purification to water source clean-up and rehabilitation from oil contamination. Many species thrive in even the driest places, with some surviving on water harvested from fog. By studying these species, new materials can be developed to provide a source of fresh water from fog for communities across the globe. The vast majority of water on the Earth is in the oceans. However, current desalination processes are energy-intensive. Systems in our own bodies have evolved to transport water efficiently while blocking other molecules and ions. Inspiration can be taken from such to improve the efficiency of desalination and help purify water containing other contaminants. Finally, oil contamination of water from spills or the fracking technique can be a devastating environmental disaster. By studying how natural surfaces interact with liquids, new techniques can be developed to clean up oil spills and further protect our most precious resource.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Bioinspired hierarchically structured surfaces for green science’.
One contribution of 12 to a theme issue ‘Bioinspired hierarchically structured surfaces for green science’.
- Accepted April 21, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.