This story is a supplement to the feature "Self-Cleaning Materials: Lotus Leaf-Inspired Nanotechnology" which was printed in the August 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Researchers inspired by a desert beetle are developing devices that will use a combination of the lotus effect and superhydrophilicity to harvest water from the air in remote, arid regions.


The beetle Stenocara sp. gathers water from wind-driven morning fogs in Africa’s Namib Desert by crouching with its back raised facing the wind (above). Its back is mostly super­hydrophobic thanks to 0.5-millimeter bumps and the microscopic roughness of its waxy surface (below). Water droplets form, however, on tiny hydrophilic areas at the peaks of the bumps and roll down to the beetle’s mouth.