Harvard Researchers are turning to an age-old technique for collecting clean water from the environment: condensate capture. While this technique of pulling raw moisture out of the air may not sound cutting-edge, scientists like Joanna Aizenberg may beg to differ. Her team at Harvard is advancing sophisticated new methods and materials related to “dropwise condensation.” Her research may have a significant impact in capturing and securing new water supplies in water-stressed environments. 
According to Hannah Furlong’s article in Sustainable Brands, dropwise condensation involves “collecting water on a surface as quickly as possible while also moving that collected water away.” Recently publishing a paper in the journal Nature, Aizenberg’s team is looking at natural formations to improve the efficiency of condensation capture. By mimicking nature, Aizenberg is developing biometric materials that not only maximize the size of condensation droplets, but allow these droplets to be shed from the material much more quickly.
In their research, Aizenberg’s team examined “the bumpy shell of the Namib desert beetle, the V-shaped spines of cacti and the slippery coating of carnivorous pitcher plants.” These natural surfaces influenced the design of new materials that can be used in industrial air conditioning processes or water harvesting systems that rely on the basic principles of dropwise condensation. When testing their new materials, her team observed a “sixfold-higher exponent of growth rate, faster onset, higher steady-state turnover rate, and a greater volume of water collected compared to other surfaces.”
Aizenberg believes that her design strategy can be applied to a “wide-range of water harvesting and phase-change heat-transfer applications.” By applying the evolutionary design inspired by nature, the material Aizenberg’s team created may begin influencing design of new water collection and industrial cooling systems.
Although not nearly as sophisticated, new products from companies like FONTUS are using a similar concept to facilitate condensate capture for personal water bottles. FONTUS’ Airo and Ryde are considered self-filling water bottles that use small solar devices to facilitate condensation. According to Furlong’s article the product is the brainchild of Kristof Retezar, who developed the product as an idea to help “solve a global water problem.” If Aizenberg’s new biomaterials could bring condensate harvesting to a commercial-scale, she may be at the forefront of doing just that.
 Furlong, Hannah. Trending: Biomimetic Design Solutions Collecting Clean Water from the Air. Sustainable Brands. http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/chemistry_materials/hannah_furlong/trending_collecting_clean_water_air