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MIT harvests fog to make water in one of the driest places on Earth

Jon Fingas , @jonfingas

The climate is so arid in some corners of the globe that virtually any source of water is crucial to survival; even the fog rolling over the hills could make a big difference. MIT is well aware of this, and has been testing an advanced form of fog harvesting in Chile's Atacama Desert (one of the driest places on the planet) to see how the technology can help communities in very harsh regions. By taking inspiration from fog-collecting organisms like beetles and grass, researchers built large meshes that are 500 percent more efficient at turning fog into drinkable water than previous systems. In the Atacama experiment, they're good enough to produce half a gallon of water a day for every 10 square feet of mesh. That's not a lot, but it's sufficient for watering gardens of edible plants like aloe vera.

This is just the start, too. In time, MIT hopes to boost efficiency to the point that a mesh can collect three gallons of water in the same surface area. More importantly, the technology is already cheap and easy to maintain. If the mesh technology reaches mass production, it could quickly improve the quality of life for some desert dwellers -- they wouldn't have to worry as much about basics like clean water and healthy crops.