Biomimicking Torrey Pine Needles: Atmospheric Moisture Harvesting Device

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 community outreach program founded by the Tianshi siblings, who are concerned about the global water shortage and water pollution. They have been conducting research related to water from their home lab since middle school. Both of them were named top 30 national finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS, the US's premiere STEM middle school competition. Through events and educational programs, they encourage more children to think about the water crisis, publish creative ideas on this website, and utilize their creativity to solve water and environmental problems.




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