A new treatment for cotton fabrics that allows it to absorb 340% of its weight in water could help dry, arid regions collect water from fog and mist.
Fog and mist harvesting is a good way for desert regions to collect water, but a strong air flow is typically required in order for them to function properly. This new treated cotton works without the help of wind, and can even be used to collect water directly on the ground where it is needed the most.
According to researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, cotton can absorb up to 340% of its own weight when coated with a polymer PNIPAAm treatment. This makes the fabric more hydrophilic, and as the temperature rises, it becomes hydrophobic and releases the absorbed water. This can be repeated time and time again with no additional treatments.
The cotton is cheap and easy to produce, and the polymer is not very costly either, so this is a pretty inexpensive way to increase the availability of water in extremely arid regions. Over time, apparently this could also become a new development for athletic gear as a way to manage moisture and use it to our advantage.
Image credit: TU Eindhoven/Bart van Overbeeke