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By Kyle Tianshi

What is the Problem? 

The invisible TSS (Total Suspended Solids) in water source is becoming a problem with ever-growing plastic contamination. 83% of bottled water and 93% of tap water contain microplastics. My goal was to develop a TSS detector that could measure invisible particles. 

What is Your Solution?

Utilizing an innovative combination of lasers and video image processing, I proved the concept that it is feasible to develop a TSS detector that can measure invisible articles as small as 0.1 microns at concentration of 10ppm. The measurement is accurate and fast. I build a mockup design with a cost of $35 when purchasing individual parts from Amazon. I expect the cost will go down to as low as $15 for mass production.

By Emily Tianshi

What Is Your Inspiration?

The Torrey Pine tree only grows in San Diego and Santa Rosa Island. These areas receive very little rain but have a high moisture content due to their proximity to the ocean. On foggy days, Torrey Pine trees can be observed with large water puddles underneath them. Locals believe the tree’s needles have an amazing water harvesting ability. A research paper indicated that Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve receives 245mm of annual precipitation while the evapotranspiration level is at 1,024mm. The difference could very well be contributed to the moisture harvesting of the needles.  As a child, my family would hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve every weekend. I was curious about how Torrey Pine trees were so capable of harvesting moisture, but hardly any research had been done to explain the mechanisms behind them. I decided to take action.

What Is Your Solution? 

My research firstly characterizes the surface structures and properties of the Torrey Pine needle through imaging, contact angle measurements, and real-time video image analysis. After exploring the plant's moisture harvesting mechanisms, I biomimicked several significant features onto another material surface and demonstrated an improvement in moisture harvesting efficiency. My ultimate goal is to develop a mass-manufacturable moisture harvesting device bio-inspired by Torrey Pine needles.

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