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Nature-Inspired Surfaces for Sustainable Clean Water
Jas Pal Badyal FRS was awarded BA/MA and PhD degrees from Cambridge University; where he subsequently held a King’s College Fellowship and the Oppenheimer Fellowship. He then moved to Durham University. He is primary author / inventor on 194 publications / 46 patent families. Honours include: the Royal Society of Chemistry Harrison Medal; the British Vacuum Council Burch Prize; the Royal Society of Chemistry Tilden Medal; the Chemical Research Society of India Medal; and elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). His research is included in The UK’s Top 100 Breakthroughs List, and has led to 3 valuable start-up companies.
The United Nations estimates that over one in ten people across the world do not have access to clean water. Hence, affordable, eco-sustainable methods for water collection and purification are major global challenges facing society today. For water collection, nature-inspired hierarchical structures can be devised. One example is the three-dimensional hierarchical length scale structures of the South African Cotula fallax plant comprising stems, leaves, and fine hairs, which capture and steer water droplets during fog episodes. In the case of the coniferous Candian tree species, Thuja plicata, remarkable water channelling properties are observed which can be replicated by 3-D printing of meshes (roof tiles) based upon the structure of the tree branchlets. Alongside water collection, three-dimensional hierarchical surfaces have been devised for the capture and release of agricultural and heavy metal water pollutants, the killing of bacteria (including coronavirus), and oil-water separation. Envisaged societal applications include water harvesting for clean drinking water, low cost breathable architecture, and prevention of disease transmission in low-income countries.