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Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • May 14, 2014

ORNL's Air-Stable Water Droplet Networks Could Help In Harvesting Water From Fog

To give a much needed boost to the fields of Fog Harvesting, Membrane Research or even Biological Sensing, a new method developed by the awesome researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) can be put to work. With the new technique, they have been successful in creating air-stable water droplet networks - called as "droplet interface bilayers". These are nothing but drops of water interlocking in ambient conditions to become super useful in a variety of applications. Till date, tedious methods of fabricating these have significantly restricted their use. But now, since these interconnected water droplets have interfaces that simulate cell membranes, a wide new dimension of their application has opened up.

Since their conceptualization, these networks have been created by forming two water droplets an oil bath and then brought together while they’re submerged in oil. Instead of doing that, the researchers at ORNL tried placing these droplets on a superhydrophobic surface infused with a coating of oil. The results were quite favorable because the droplets aligned side by side without merging. Moreover, without the use of lipids in the water solution (as is traditionally done), the researchers could also form non-coalescing water droplet networks.

The research team shares that their use of the thin oil film did the trick. It squeezed between the pure water droplets as they come together, which prevented the droplets from merging into one. By such control on the behavior of pure water droplets on oil-infused surfaces - now fog-harvesting technology can get the much needed boost as do the condensers, which stand a chance to become more efficient than ever. The researchers at ORNL at confident that these bilayers can be used in anything from synthetic biology to creating circuits to bio-sensing applications. Giving an example of developing a bio-battery or a signaling network by stringing some of these droplets together, the researchers prove their point.

Going forward, the team gave a demonstration on how - by manipulating oil viscosity and temperature and humidity levels - we are able to control the performance and lifetime of the water droplets. To see it all in action, you can check the following video that shows non-coalescence between 5-microliter water droplets on an oil-infused surface. Check -

What are your thoughts on the air stable water droplet networks, fog-harvesting and other applications? Share with us in comments.

Source: ORNL Research

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