Langmuir, Vol.29, No.43, 13269-13277, 2013
Optimal Design of Permeable Fiber Network Structures for Fog Harvesting
Fog represents a large untapped source of potable water, especially in arid climates. Numerous plants and animals use textural and chemical features on their surfaces to harvest this precious resource. In this work, we investigate the influence of the surface wettability characteristics, length scale, and weave density on the fog-harvesting capability of woven meshes. We develop a combined hydrodynamic and surface wettability model to predict the overall fog-collection efficiency of the meshes and cast the findings in the form of a design chart. Two limiting surface wettability constraints govern the re-entrainment of collected droplets and clogging of mesh openings. Appropriate tuning of the wetting characteristics of the surfaces, reducing the wire radii, and optimizing the wire spacing all lead to more efficient fog collection. We use a family of coated meshes with a directed stream of fog droplets to simulate a natural foggy environment and demonstrate a five-fold enhancement in the fog-collecting efficiency of a conventional polyolefin mesh. The design rules developed in this work can be applied to select a mesh surface with optimal topography and wetting characteristics to harvest enhanced water fluxes over a wide range of natural convected fog environments.