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Study Investigates Using Nanostructured Cloud seeding Materials for Rain Enhancement

Bioinspired materials provide an effective method to replicate nature’s design principles in building complex and sophisticatedly engineered systems at various length scales, allowing us to solve critical water stress challenges.

A successful example for such systems is the water-augmentation materials inspired by the structure-dependent water-vapor harvesting systems in nature, such as insects and plants which can survive in the desert or regions with limited rainfall.

The advantages of these materials have been confirmed via practical applications, which surpass the conventional physical methods with low efficiency. However, most efforts mainly focus on fabricating the bioinspired patterns beyond 10 μm scale, and very few studies are dedicated to design at sub-micro/nano scale.

Prof. Linda Zou, a first cycle awardee of UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science Program (UAEREP) and professor at the Khalifa University, worked on a project using reduced Graphene/Titanium Dioxide Nanocomposite (rGTNC) microcrystals as efficient cloud seeding materials since they share similarities to the water-vapor-harvesting system of desert beetles.

Prof. Linda and her team designed and synthesized the nanostructured cloud seeding materials, ensuring that each component makes its respective important contribution in this bioinspired water-vapor harvesting system, and investigated their optimal loadings step by step to achieve maximum targeted function.

They also employed cloud chamber experiments to further evaluate the cloud-seeding materials inside a 3D environment with controlled conditions (100 RH %, 5 °C). The study found that after adding rGTNC microcrystals into the chamber, the concentration of droplets reached its maximum level, which are higher than those induced by NaCl particles for all size ranges.

This bioinspired mechanism was the first effort to be used in designing the nanostructured cloud seeding materials for the purpose of rain enhancement. More importantly, the synthesis process of rGTNC is facile with mostly low-cost materials and is easy to be scaled up for mass production.

After further assessment using numerical modelling and field-based validation through cloud seeding operations, rGTNC microcrystals may be considered a more efficient cloud seeding material for rain enhancement.

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