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Researchers Develop New Treatment to Use Cotton for Moisture Farming


Yes. I was only interested in this story at first because I saw the words “moisture farming” and thought of Luke Skywalker’s uncle Owen and aunt Beru and their moisture farm on Tatooine, but it turned out to be interesting all on its own. Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology and Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a new polymer that allows cotton to pull up to 340 percent of its own weight in moisture out of the air. The only downside to increased moisture farming is that there will be a lot less time to go to the Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.

Cotton without the new polymer can only hold 18 percent of its weight in moisture, so the increase in the amount of water this could provide for things like agriculture in arid climates is significant. The researchers aren’t happy with the 340 percent though, and they hope to increase that number.

They also hope to decrease the temperature at which the cotton releases the moisture as “totally pure water,” as they call it. Currently, the polymer holds moisture pulled from cool damp air in the cotton until it heats up to 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit). Lowering the temperature that the cotton releases its water could make the polymer useful in cooler areas.

Mesh nets are already being used as a means of collecting water from the air in dry climates, but this system requires strong winds to knock the droplets from the netting to the ground. The polymer coated cotton would not require any wind to release its moisture, and the cotton can be applied directly where moisture is needed most.

While the initial uses of this polymer are agricultural, the researchers also hope it could have other uses like clothing that better absorbs sweat from athletes and people in Tusken Raider costumes, or tents that collect clean water for campers and people waiting in line for Episode VII.

(Eindhoven University of Technology via The Verge, image via Martin LaBar)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.