In some parts of the world, fog is a major source of freshwater, but collecting it is a challenge. Most systems use a wire mesh to capture and collect droplets, but the process is highly inefficient, pulling only 1-3% of droplets from the fog. Researchers found that this is due largely to aerodynamic effects. The presence of the wire deflects droplets around it (bottom left). To solve this, engineers introduced an electric charge into the fog. The subsequent electric field actually pulls droplets to the wires (bottom right). When applied to a mesh (top), the efficiency of fog capture improves dramatically.
The technique can also be used to capture water vapor that would otherwise escape from the cooling towers of power plants. The MIT researchers who developed the technique will conduct a full-scale test at the university’s power plant this fall. They hope the technique will recapture millions of gallons of water that would otherwise drift away from the plant. (Image credits: MIT News, source; image and research credits: M. Damak and K. Varanasi, source)