The 3D flower-like structure filters over half a gallon of water every hour, per square meter.

By Nashia Baker
June 28, 2021
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Roses are far more than a traditional Valentine's Day gift or hallmark of a vibrant garden. These flowering shrubs also help inspire the innovations in science, and according to Good News Network, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin recently developed a water purifying device that mirrors the flower's structure. Not only is it inexpensive to make (it costs just two cents to produce), but it also filters over half a gallon of water every hour, per square meter.

close up of wet red rose
Credit: Bertrand Louis / EyeEm / Getty Images

The team drew inspiration from an origami rose as they created their solar-steaming device, which is a process that uses the energy during daylight to filter salt from water. Their tool features black paper sheets that resemble the flower's petals and a stem-like tube that gathers unpurified water. The result of this rose structure? The device can collect and preserve more liquid. "We were searching for more efficient ways to apply the solar-steaming technique for water production by using black filtered paper coated with a special type of polymer, known as polypyrrole [which converts solar light to thermal heat]," Donglei Fan, an associate professor and lead researcher, said.

rose inspired water collector and purifier
Credit: Courtesy of Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

Essentially, the shape allows for direct access to sunlight on the petals. The tube takes in water and "feeds" it to the top of the flower. When the water hits the petals, it soon turns into steam and filters out any salt or bacteria. "We designed the purification-collection unisystem to include a connection point for a low-pressure pump to help condense the water more effectively," Weigu Li, a Ph.D. candidate in Fan's lab and lead author on the paper, said. "Once it is condensed, the glass jar is designed to be compact, sturdy and secure for storing clean water."

"Our rational design and low-cost fabrication of 3D origami photothermal materials represents a first-of-its-kind portable low-pressure solar-steaming-collection system," Li said. "This could inspire new paradigms of solar-steaming technologies in clean water production for individuals and homes."

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