Pioneering fog-harvesting technology helps relieve water shortages in arid regions

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO
SUMMARY

When we think about sources of water, fog is not the first thing that springs to mind. But a pioneering new water technology called the CloudFisher® offers communities facing severe water shortages in arid and foggy coastal or mountainous regions an affordable and sustainable source of clean water.

 
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Developed by the German Water Foundation (WasserStiftung®), the technology is commercialized and implemented through Aqualonis, a Munich-based for-profit company headed by industrial designer Peter Trautwein, who is also responsible for the Water Foundation’s fog water extraction sector. The CloudFisher’s pioneering design, which takes fog-harvesting technology to a new level, is the brainchild of Mr. Trautwein with input from researchers at the Technical University in Munich.

In 2013, recognizing the shortcomings of existing fog-harvesting technologies, in particular their inability to withstand high winds, the German Water Foundation began working with Mr. Trautwein and a team of researchers to come up with a more efficient and sustainable fog-harvesting system.

“When I first saw fog collectors in Eritrea, I was disappointed with the bad construction,” says Mr. Trautwein. “All over the world, this idea fails because of its construction, not because of the principle. On the day of my visit, I was determined to design a maintenance-free and effective system,” he explains, noting that when such equipment suffers damage, the people that use it typically lack the means or the know-how and technical understanding to maintain it.

Optimizing fog collection in Morocco

Over a two-year period between 2013 and 2016, the team piloted fog-harvesting technology on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in Morocco to optimize the design and assembly of fog collectors and demonstrate their ability to serve as a reliable source of clean water. During the pilot phase 10 different types of mesh fabric were tested.

The team found that woven mesh and fabrics made of stainless steel produce a lower water yield than three-dimensional spacer fabrics, which Aqualonis has been using ever since. The larger surface area of three-dimensional spacer fabrics can capture many more tiny water droplets than other materials, and the distance between the monofilaments is very important – it must not be too small or too big. “The specially produced monofilaments used in the CloudFisher were developed for use in food safety and for extreme UV radiation,” Mr. Trautwein explains. These materials are proving very resilient, with little visible sign of deterioration even after three years of continuous use.

Mount Boutmezguida proved an ideal location for the pilot. It is one of the driest regions of Morocco and, located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains not far from the coastal town of Sidi...

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