• Clearwater Innovation

Biomimicking Torrey Pine Needles: Atmospheric Moisture Harvesting Device

Updated: Jan 16

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.

Clearwater Innovation

A program of WE IMPACT Corp, a 501(c)(3) non-profit company 

A student-run enviromental advocacy program founded by Emily Tianshi and Kyle Tianshi. Concerned about the global water crisis and water pollution, they have been conducting scientific research related to moisture harvesting and microplastic contamination from their home lab. Through events and educational programs, they encourage students to share water project ideas, advocate for change via blogs on this website, and utilize their creativity to solve environmental problems.

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