Attached to a custom-made cord, the water droplets shown here look like a festive necklace with colorful balls from a Christmas tree.
Not only do the drops look pretty, but they’re part of a study led by Kyoo-Chul Kenneth Park of Northwestern University in Illinois. The research deals with the formation and transport of droplets on highly hydrophilic nanowires.
Park and his team studied droplets of different sizes and viscosities on wires of different diameters to find the optimal combination of velocity and energy. When the water-attracting wire is tilted, the droplets move and hit the string. The researchers were surprised by the high speed that occurs when two water droplets slide over each other and merge. Fusion increases droplet velocity by up to 270 percent.
By understanding the transport of droplets through a wire, Park explains, his team is closer to improving the ability to harvest haze from the atmosphere. As water scarcity becomes a growing problem around the world, mist collectors are proving to be an inexpensive and easily accessible method of collecting potable water. However, it is ineffective because water droplets often seep through the grid of the collector boards. “This work could provide the theoretical basis for a new method for developing 3D fog traps that are better than traditional 2D nets,” Park said.
The findings of the new study could also help with other practical applications such as oil-water separation and the control of pollutant emissions from industrial facilities. The area of biomedical applications for masks and filters that protect people from microplastics and virus-containing droplets from the air is also interesting.
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