Super-efficient ‘fog harp’ device can collect water from the lightest mist

24 Apr 2020

From left: Jonathan Boreyko and Brook Kennedy inspect a fog harp. Image: Peter Means/ Virginia Tech

This week in future tech, engineers have created a new device that can harvest fresh water from even light fog.

Researchers from Virginia Tech have revealed a super-efficient ‘fog harp’ that is capable of harvesting water from a light mist. In a paper published to Advanced Sustainable Systems, its designers said that the device can be used where water is in short supply, but fog is not.

“Billions of people face water scarcity worldwide,” said Brook Kennedy, who led the design’s development. “We feel that the fog harp is a great example of a relatively simple, low-tech invention that leverages insight from nature to help communities meet their most basic needs.”

Future Human

Depending on the density of the fog, the harp can collect many more times water than previous devices. Kennedy’s colleague, Jonathan Boreyko, said that field tests returned very promising results.

“We already knew that in heavy fog, we can get at least two times as much water,” Boreyko said. “But realising in our field tests that we can get up to 20 times more water on average in a moderate fog gives us hope we can dramatically enhance the breadth of regions where fog harvesting is a viable tool for getting decentralised, fresh water.”

New hybrid material makes powerful Li-ion batteries

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have developed a hybrid material that can improve the performance of silicon in lithium-ion batteries. In the years to come, silicon is expected to replace graphite as the anode material in batteries because it holds 10 times the capacity.

This could allow for lithium-ion batteries to have double the capacity of the total battery cell. However, silicon is facing severe challenges in battery technology due to its unstable material properties. Also, there is no technology available so far to produce feasible anodes solely from silicon.

Now, writing in Scientific Reports, the researchers revealed a hybrid material of mesoporous silicon (PSi) microparticles and carbon nanotubes.

The PSi microparticles used in the hybrid material were produced from barley husk ash to minimise the carbon footprint of the anode material and to support its sustainability. Now, the researchers want to produce a full silicon anode with a solid electrolyte to reduce silicon’s instability.

Hydrogen-powered floating data centre proposed for Singapore

Keppel Data Centres has announced the signing of two memoranda of understanding to see whether it would be possible to build a floating data centre in Singapore’s main harbour. As data centres require significant amounts of energy for cooling, using sea water is one potential, energy-efficient solution.

The Floating Data Centre Park (FDCP) project could also potentially use a mixture of liquid natural gas and hydrogen power to generate its own electricity.

Keppel Data Centres said a floating data centre avoids the use of potable or industrial water in cooling towers, which typically results in significant water loss through evaporation. Furthermore, the FDCP would be modular so it can be deployed in a “plug-and-play” manner, according to Keppel Data Centres CEO Wong Wai Meng.

“Given the modular design, new floating data centre modules can be readily developed and deployed to replace the older ones, while the older floating data centre modules can be recycled for deployment in other locations, thus contributing to the circular economy,” he said.

Coronavirus halts autonomous car research

While it has not been a smooth drive for autonomous car development to date, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on development in the years to come will be even greater. According to GlobalData, car manufacturers and tech companies are resetting their priorities and are now focusing on keeping their businesses afloat.

“By eliminating the fixed cost of the driver, fully autonomous vehicles hold out the hope of much reduced cost per passenger-kilometre travelled,” said Calum MacRae, GlobalData’s automotive analyst.

“However, full autonomous is devilishly difficult and it does not look like level four and five vehicles will have a commercial solution in the next few years.

“Even more seriously, in these difficult times, cash conservation is king for automotive companies. They are reining back on future mobility initiatives and returning to basics and products that will bring immediately realisable returns.”

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic