Large-scale efficient water harvesting using bioinspired micro-patterned copper oxide nanoneedle surfaces and guided droplet transport†
As the Earth's atmosphere contains an abundant amount of water as vapors, a device which can capture a fraction of this water could be a cost-effective and practical way of solving the water crisis. There are many biological surfaces found in nature which display unique wettability due to the presence of hierarchical micro–nanostructures and play a major role in water deposition. Inspired by these biological microstructures, we present a large scale, facile and cost-effective method to fabricate water-harvesting functional surfaces consisting of high-density copper oxide nanoneedles. A controlled chemical oxidation approach on copper surfaces was employed to fabricate nanoneedles with controlled morphology, assisted by bisulfate ion adsorption on the surface. The fabricated surfaces with nanoneedles displayed high wettability and excellent fog harvesting capability. Furthermore, when the fabricated nanoneedles were subjected to hydrophobic coating, these were able to rapidly generate and shed coalesced droplets leading to further increase in fog harvesting efficiency. Overall, ∼99% and ∼150% increase in fog harvesting efficiency was achieved with non-coated and hydrophobic layer coated copper oxide nanoneedle surfaces respectively when compared to the control surfaces. As the transport of the harvested water is very important in any fog collection system, hydrophilic channels inspired by leaf veins were made on the surfaces via a milling technique which allowed an effective and sustainable way to transport the captured water and further enhanced the water collection efficiency by ∼9%. The system presented in this study can provide valuable insights towards the design and fabrication of fog harvesting systems, adaptable to arid or semi-arid environmental conditions.