“A gota d’água” – Fogcatcher



fogcatchers conceptsAntecedentes
Any system used to capture the microscopic water droplets contained in fog and store them in liquid form can be defined as “Atrapanieblas” or “Fogcather”.
Through a condensation process the atmospheric vapor contained in the air naturally deposits on cold surfaces forming drops of liquid water.

Many plants and animals, especially in desert environments, use this principle in order to collect the water they need to survive. Observing the systems used by these organisms, scientists began trying to imitate them in order to find an artificial way to trap fog and transform it into water.

The organized collection of mist through natural or assisted processes is an ancient practice, archaeologists have found evidences in different parts of the world. Walls around plants and vines were built to collect moisture from condensation. In the Atacama Desert, in South America and Egypt cairns were made to generate condensation dripping on inside surfaces where it was collected and stored.

In modern times the “Camanchaca”, a type of fog that is generated in Northern Chile’s deserts, attracted the attention of some researchers who observing the structures that nature had developed to attract moisture from the air and survive in this environment, began experimenting with the purpose of building an effective structure to obtain water from mist.

The first experiments were developed in 1957 by the hand of Carlos Espinosa Arancibia, a physicist at the University of Chile, with the construction of a first polyhedral fogcatcher. Few years later, after improvements and modifications, he created the most famous fogcather, the “Chilean-type” which is mono-dimensional. This is actually widely used in Chile.

fogcatchers history

Sources: wikipedia.org, blog.sciencenet.cn, neilhallphotography.com, integradoatrapanieblas2011.blogspot.com, energizamx.wordpress.com, warkawater.org/media

In recent years public interest on renewable energy and water production has rekindled, and thus the interest of many scientists, architects and industrial designers towards the fogcatchers.

Current research focuses on finding better performance materials, more practical and quick ways of assembly and possible applications in urban areas.

Note: When searching for inspirations, the extensive catalog of solutions and proposals that have never been built were not considered as references, we wanted to base on real experiences, as real and concrete as the problem we were working on.
Certainly our initiative is based mainly on the latest experiences, as the “Architecture and Vision”‘s Warka Water. We got in touch with the developers on several occasions to propose our low-tech approach and hope to have answers soon.

Vocaciónctrl+z architect gianluca stasi control zeta
At the end of 2014 we began to reason about these experiences and plan the construction one of our own. The experience of “The Tree” went partially in this direction, but could not completely satisfy our concerns.
Our research and our experiment did not aspire to design the best possible tower, the more efficient, the perfect one, fair and 100% ecological, but knowing that the water supply is critical to communities and individuals development, we looked the way produce low-tech towers based on the materials that can be harvested locally, reaching compromises and as always even open to use “waste”.

We focus on the application of the ideas developed so far, providing, as we are used to, our simplification focus. We’re sure that this is also useful to feed substantially the ongoing investigation. ctrl+z participative architecture
We wanted to design an appropriated, easily and immediately asumible and assimilable system, with applicability in different real situations in which the scarce accessibility to water is often accompanied by complex situations of limited technological access. An easy design and installation proposal, a process measured on possibilities and on the people who will possibly dare to try this technology. So in this experiment we did not mind giving up some aesthetic and “environmental coherence” (as for the use of plastic fasteners) to promote reproducibility of the proposed model.

We decided to design the tower so that the geometry could be at the same time very simple and solid. The proposed solution bases on just two different pieces greatly simplifies production work, increases the adaptability to different materials and the design appropriability.

Circumferences bars are calculated simply by dividing it into equal parts, while diagonal with a simple formula of cylindrical geometry (to be use just once).ctrl+z architects fogcatcher
We based the tissue design on an hexagonal pattern with the immediate advantage of obtaining all measures pattern graphically.
A real time design based on materials available at each location, that allows the participation of the whole community, or everyone involved in the construction of the tower, without the need for complicated calculations.

This type of design can be implemented from flexible materials such as bamboo, blinds, metal plates, ect … because the material must be able to assume the curved geometry. Ideally we’ll find formulas so that in future individuals or communities will be able to autonomously install similar systems in their homes.

Building the prototype
Finally in September 2015 appeared the opportunity we were waiting for to put into practice the developed research. André, with who we had already collaborated in the past, had managed the development of an activity during the Locomotiva, an attentive to environmental and artistic themes, musical festival.
The organization required the installation to take place during the festival so that we had to prepare all the logistics beforehand as it lasted just two days.

We intended the full-scale prototype construction as an essential step to pose the first stone of a research process, working both with Spanish and Brazilian universities, toward the formulation of a definitive model.

Once we arrived in Brazil we revised and completed the design and began to carry out all procedures of procurement and preparation. The bamboo were prepared so that they could be transported to a carpentry shop where Carmen and Celia cut them into strips.
When searching the tissue we find Solpack, a company whose headquarters and manufacturing production center was located at half an hour from Piracicaba. From the beginning they demonstrated interested in the initiative and ended up donating fabrics and making available their sewing department that finally was responsible for its preparation. In future it is intended to use mesh bags from onions, potatoes and oranges that can be recovered after transport and distribution, but for the moment we decided to use new fabrics due to the very limited time we had to mount the model.

The installation was carried out with the help of several UNIP Limeira students volunteers: Allana Vintti, Claudio da Silva Neto, Daniele Corrêa, Luis Gustavo Rezende Gaiotto, Renata Soares, Ariana Harumi Pareja Nishimori, Patricia Miki Hatano Mine and of course Francielle Mattos.
And others who came in a more spontaneous way as: Luis Gustavo Resende Gaiotto, Tomas Leme Simoni, …

The Festival took place in the “Engenho Central de Piracicaba “ a vestige of the sugar industry, an heritage used nowadays as an artistic and cultural recreational space. The first day, coinciding with heavy rain, we refuged in one of the Engheño ‘s covered spaces and to prepare the material and build the modules. The second day, accompanied by good weather, the tower was mounted on a pallet’s base. Thanks to the extreme lightness of the structure and its modularity, cranes, scaffolding or other aids were not necessary for the assembly.

control zeta punk architecture ctrl+zbamboo structure selfconstructionbamboo fogcatcher

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fogcatcher courseempowerment waterwater from fog

There are different experiences built in the world, certainly of great interest. But are lacking data to know their results and effectiveness as well as for communities or interested individuals and that would need to reproduce them.

The idea that the only way to supply the planet are local, sustainable, small scale food productions it’s strengthening, in the same way we are convinced of the advantages of local water supply, family or community solutions that enable supply in a sustainable way and invite naturally to take the care of the environment around us.

Staring from that, and every day more, our interest to small local infrastructures capable of providing solutions to the needs of small communities is growing.

Because of heavy rain and especially due the short trial period, we couldn’t gather reliable data on the proposed model.
Anyway before disseminating the proposed lowtech technology, we are aware that it is urgent to carry out an experimentation period to test its efficiencies in the different scenarios in which could be applied, to sort out the weather conditions in which it could operate and provide data references to those who want to apply it.
The tower has been donated to the newly created “Escritorio Modelo” of the UNIP Limeira that will mount it again to activate one of their first research projects. Assembly is expected to take place before year-end.

Meanwhile we have been in contact with Misael Rodriguez from “We Wear Buildings“, with his cooperation we’ll be able to design a simple and inexpensive control system based on arduino. Once designed and tested the prototype, its plans will be made available, Creative Common license, to those who want to monitor their fogcatcher.

It is intended to offer the possibility of connecting fogcatchers to “IoT” (Internet of Things) to make it possible to learn from each experience and get real experimental conclusions from each installation.
In this way the collected data could be collect, shared and compared from different water towers in different parts of the world. These data will be very useful for people or groups who want to implement one to know what type of water condenser could best suit their specific climatic conditions.

Finally the initiative should have its own web space where designs, experiences, equipments, softwares and all necessary information will be documented to make the project replicable. With these objectives, we are studying crowdfounding’s needs to launch a campaign at the beginning of 2016.

social architecture ctrl+zworkshop  fogcatcherhow to build a fogcatcher ctrl+z architecturecontrol zeta architecture ctrl+z
Research and society
ctrl+z subversive architectureMany were surprised and asked about the curious combination of a music festival and an experimental activity linked to an university research. Ctrl+Z always avoids inbreeding, the results that serve only to be presented to peers at conferences or used only for articles in indexed journals.

However our research and its results are always channeled in paths where they have continuous contact with society. This exchange is important to create and maintain an urban debate, as important as supply and water use issues, alive and receive the necessary feedback to move forward.

The number of interactions with the public initially just attracted by the festival musical offer, confirm the interest of such an approach. Certainly the experience has served to rekindle the debate on urban water use in a region like Sao Paulo that are already experiencing water supply problems that are expected to worsen in future to go.

Involve the university students was not only a means to rally volunteers and build the proposal. We were interested in the knowledge interchange and above all contribute to raising awareness on issues like this, which often are not included in the academic curricula.

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