An Israeli team of scientists have taken inspiration from nature's leaves and spider cobwebs and designed an inverted pyramid that can collect fresh water from dew in the air.
Made of elastic canvas, recycled polycarbonate, metal or glass, WatAir can reap dozens of litres of water a day from the air, according to its designers.
"The design has minimal special demands. It is low-tech and low-cost, and in fact can be even produced with local means," said Joseph Cory, a PhD candidate at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and an architect at Haifa, Israel-based Geotectura Studio.
He said the inexpensive solution could prove a boon for people in the remote or polluted areas.
Taking inspiration from the passive way dew gathers on leaves, spider webs, even on sleeping bags and tents, Cory and colleague Eyal Malka of Malka Architects designed a four-sided structure shaped like an inverted pyramid, with each panel about 10 feet tall.
At night, dew drops bead up on both the tops and undersides of the panels.
As dew collecting on the top may contain dust, dirt or insects, that water could be used for irrigation, said Cory, adding that dew from the underside is potable.
Gravity draws the drops downward into tanks, wells or bottles at the bottom. A structure 315 square feet in size can extract a minimum of 48 litres of fresh water daily. But the dimensions can vary, from a small personal unit that fills a water glass to several large-scale units that provide water for a community, said Cory.
According to the duo, the low-tech approach requires only low-cost materials and is quick and is easy to deploy.
WatAir can be built locally, but is durable enough to be dropped by parachute from a plane. The cost could be offset by printing sponsor logos or advertisements onto the canvas sheets, said Cory.
"It is simple, practical, adaptable, sustainable, flexible and draws inspiration from nature resulting in a minimal intervention with potentially a big impact," Discovery News quoted Frank Lawson, a senior engineer at Arup, as saying.
Cory and Malka are now looking into modifications to WatAir that could help produce energy.
They are currently investigating embedding photovoltaic cells into the canvas to convert sunlight into electricity.
They believe the energy could be used to power electrical appliances or charge batteries or it could be used to cool the surface of the dew panels, which would allow the structure to produce water all day long.