MM Blog: Extracting Water From 'Nanorods'

A look at how an experiment-gone-wrong may have discovered a phenomenon first theorized over 20 years ago.

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After accidentally creating nanorods when an experiment didn't go as planned, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory gave their microscopic, unplanned spawns of science a closer look when they found that as humidity levels increased, the nanorods lost weight. Upon closer inspection, a fluid oozing out from between the tiny rods was discovered. Intrigued, the team conducted further experiments that showed the material absorbs water at lower humidity levels and expels it at higher humidity levels. This is in contrast to most materials that absorb more water vapor as humidity levels rise. 

The researchers found an explanation for the phenomenon in a 2013 research paper that described a process called "solvent cavitation under solvo-phobic confinement" which depicts the condensation of water between the confines of close hydrophobic materials. This discovery by the researchers turns out to be the first experimental viewing of that process. The discovery could lead to a large range of real-world applications, including low-energy water harvesting and purification for the developing world, and fabric that automatically pulls sweat away from the body and releases it as a vapor.


Could this discovery lead to improved water-extracting processes? How might this be of use to the manufacturing sector?

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