The fog-basking behavior of the Onymacris unguicularis
, a beetle species living in the coastal regions of the Namibian desert, has recently caught the attention of the engineering community, as suggesting a viable biomimetic approach to address the problem of harvesting water in arid regions of the globe. Previous research has focused on observation and analysis of the beetle’s elytron properties and how these affect fog-collection rates. The head stance taken by the Onymacris unguicularis
when fog basking is well documented. However, how this stance affects droplet collection has not been studied up to now. The present paper addresses this problem from a computational fluid dynamics perspective, where three-dimensional numerical simulations are used to characterize the fog flow properties around a simplified geometry mimicking the beetle’s body. The simulations employ two-way coupling between the gas flow and the dispersed fog phase to account for feedback effects of fog droplets on the carrier fluid (air), and assume that droplets are captured after hitting the elytron surface. The study considers several combinations of free-stream velocity and droplet volume fraction. The analysis reveals that there is a range of head-stance angles, corresponding to an inclination of the beetle between 35 deg and 45 deg with respect to the horizon, that maximizes water collection on the beetle’s back, in qualitative agreement with observations in nature and laboratory experiments. A rationale is proposed to explain this phenomenon, finding that the specific head stance corresponds to the maximum residence time of fluid particles above the beetle’s elytron surface. This, in turn, designates the maximum likelihood for water droplets to be captured in the boundary layer developing over the beetle and subsequently hit the surface where they get captured. The results reveal the importance of the fluid flow pattern around the beetle’s body in addition to the microphysical properties of the elytron when reliable predictions of the water droplet collection efficiency are sought.
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