Fog: The Answer to H2O Access

In the Namib Desert on the west coast of Africa there is a beetle that is capable of hydrating itself even in the most arid of places. The Namib Beetle collects water droplets from the the morning fog on its bumpy back and lets them fall into its mouth. Even though the desert does not have flowing water, the Namib Beetle strategically is able to survive.

Sheerang Chhatre, an engineer at MIT, has been inspired by this beetle to utilize this idea in order to help the world’s poor. Chhatre studies fog harvesting and has been working on a device that will mimic the beetle in attracting and collecting the water from morning fog in order to provide clean water to poor villages.  In order to pursue both the technical and financial sides of his project, Chhatre is working towards a doctorate in chemical engineering, an MBA, and an entrepreneur fellowship, all at MIT.

Chhatre has definitely chosen an issue well worth the while, as access to water has become a serious global problem. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that nearly 900 million people worldwide live without safe drinking water. One of the biggest issues faced with access to water comes with the women and children who must transport it from its source. Chhatre’s device would allow poor villagers to collect clean water near their homes rather than have to travel far distances to reach the wells or streams that it comes from. “As a middle-class person, I think it’s terrible that the poor have to spend hours a day walking just to obtain a basic necessity,” Chhatre says.

This fog-harvesting device is a fence-like mesh panel that attracts water droplets, which is connected to receptacles where the water is collected. Chhatre has co-authored and published papers on the materials used for the devices, which he believes has improved its efficacy. Chhatre is confident in his protocol and his next step is to take his education earned from the business school to set up a workable plan for implementing fog-harvesting devices.

If you would like to read more about Chhatre’s interesting work with fog harvesting please visit the following website:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/fog-harvesting-0421.html

Written by: Melissa Marques

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