The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – The Namib Desert beetle inspired frost-preventing technology developed by the Virginia Tech research team. Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) researchers discovered a unique method to slow down or even prevent frosting.
Although the experiments have been conducted on small surfaces, the researchers believe the frost-preventing technology could be scaled up to serve larger applications. For instance, auto manufacturers and the aviation industry could greatly benefit from adopting the technology.
The Namib Desert beetle is a tough little fellow. Thriving in one of Earth’s most arid and harsh environments, the Namib Desert, the beetle collects water out of thin air.
Located in Southwest Africa, the Namib Desert is extremely dry. Despite this fact, the Namib Desert beetle captures airborne water to hydrate its tiny body. The mechanism at play is one of nature’s wonders and it can be observed on the beetle’s shell. Airborne water meets the tiny bumps on the Namib Desert beetle’s shell, where it is captured and condensed into droplets. The smooth surface of the rest of the shell encourages the droplets to trickle to the beetle’s mouth, while repelling moisture at the same time.
Following a growing trend of nature inspired scientific advancements, the research team with Virginia Tech watched and learned. After understanding the mechanism at play on the Namib Desert beetle’s shell, they successfully recreated it under laboratory conditions. Basically, the Namib Desert beetle inspired frost-preventing technology to the greatest extent.
Working under laboratory conditions, the research team created a smooth silicon-based surface to repel moisture. The water-repelling surface was enriched with patterns which attract water. These patterns were created through a chemical processes. The overlaying of the water-repelling surface and the water-attracting patterns is known as photolithography.
How is frost formed? When water forms droplets and under the right temperature conditions the water droplets meet, they form connections or bridges. Rupturing these bridges successfully prevents frost from forming. Thus, the frost-preventing technology makes use of the Namib Desert beetle-inspired patterns to keep the water droplets separate.
It may be ironic that the latest frost-prevention technology was inspired by a beetle living in one of the hottest places on Earth. Nonetheless, according to Jonathan Boreyko, it’s all about the pressure of fluids. Jonathan Boreyko is one of the Virginia Tech scientists involved in the research and assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics with the same institute.
The Namib Desert beetle inspired frost-preventing technology is described in the paper published online in the Scientific Reports journal.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia