Jochen Bihn

The Namib desert beetle is one of those marvels of nature that has figured out a method of survival that defies imagination. To keep from drying out in its incredibly arid habitat, the beetle gathers moisture from ocean breezes on its wings. It’s a beautiful concept, as Wired explains:

The beetle extends and aims the wings at incoming sea breezes to catch humid air; tiny droplets 15 to 20 microns in diameter eventually accumulate on its back and run straight down towards its mouth.

This is such an elegant idea that human scientists are trying to replicate it. A company called NBD Nano has managed to replicate the beetle’s water-catching system. One idea for how we could steal the beetle’s natural talents for our own selfish benefit: create water bottles that refill themselves.

At scale, these bottles could collect a substantial amount of water — about four-fifths of a gallon each hour. The company imagines it could be used on green roofs, in the military, and eventually in low-income communities living in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, producing emergency water supplies literally out of thin air.