In areas of the world where fresh water is scarce, one potential source is dew collection. Scientists have been working in recent years on making overnight dew collection more efficient. The challenge is that drops won’t begin to slide down an inclined surface until they are large enough for gravity to overcome the surface tension forces that pin the drop. Most efforts have focused on reducing the critical size where drops begin to slide through surface treatments and chemical coatings.
A recent study, however, uses a different tactic. Instead of aiming to reduce the critical drop size, these researchers built a grooved surface designed to encourage drops to grow faster. By helping the droplets coalesce quickly, their surface (right side) is able to start shedding droplets much faster than a smooth surface (left side). Under test conditions, the grooved surface was shedding droplets after only 30 minutes, whereas the smooth surface shed its first drops after 2 hours. (Image and research credit: P. Bintein et al.; see also APS Physics)