Israeli architects are developing a portable dew-harvesting kit inspired by a spider's web for use in areas hit by scarcity of clean and safe water.
Joseph Cory of company Geotectura and Eyal Malka of Malka Architects conceived the idea of making the kit called WatAir after seeing drops of water caught on desert spiders' webs.
They have revealed that their design consists of an inverted pyramid of sheet material, which collects dew and channels it into a collector and filtration unit in the centre.
The architects have already built and tested a 10 metre square canopy of canvas attached to trees by rope. They say that their prototype allows dew to be channelled into a gravity-driven filter and collecting tank hanging from the centre.
"In one day we collected more than 20 litres of water," New Scientist quoted Cory as saying.
Cory and Malka work has so far won them a competition aimed at finding new technologies to help people gain access to clean water in areas where it is scarce, organised by UK engineering firm Arup and charity WaterAid in February this year.
They are now working with a Dutch company to develop an improved version of their technique. Cory says that the second prototype "will be a properly designed product".
Since WaterAid uses poles that snap together, the whole thing can be packed inside the collection tank for carrying. "You can easily transport it that way, and then unpack everything and hang the tank below to start collecting," says Cory.
The architects have been approached by several companies offering to supply different types of sheet materials for WatAir. They will begin testing the dew-collecting ability of these materials soon. Although fog harvesting has become popular in some mountainous parts of Chile, this is the first time researchers are working on dew harvesting for water needs.
Frank Lawson, a water engineer at Arup and part-time technical advisor for WaterAid, says fog harvesting has become popular in some mountainous parts of Chile, but dew is not currently harvested for water needs.
"This design has potential wherever the climate is right for a heavy dew fall - the edge of deserts is one example," says Frank Lawson, a water engineer at Arup and part-time technical advisor for WaterAid. He added that it is important to select "the right material for the canopy" to make the most of the idea.