Aussie student Edward Linacre from Swinburne University has used the miracle of science to create the AirDrop, a device that collects moisture from the air and condenses it to liquid, before using it to irrigate crops in arid areas. It may sound like alchemy, but we promise you it’s just good old fashioned science.

The device is all the more impressive when you discover how Linacre came up with the idea for it – he studied the Namib beetle, which lives in the Namib desert. What makes it special is that the Namib desert just so happens to be one of the driest areas of the world, getting an average of just 40mm of rain per year, so the method the beetle uses to gain enough water to paramount to understanding how it survives such a harsh climate. The beetle uses its bumpy wings to draw water from the air which condenses and stream into its mouth.

Linacre’s AirDrop borrows from this idea, sucking the moisture from the air and then cooling them in underground pipes, which causes the moisture to condense to water, which is then delivered straight to the roots of crops planted in arid and semi-arid locations. Linacre claims that 11.5mL of water can be harvested from every cubic metre in the driest of deserts, making it an efficient way of collecting water anywhere in the world.

His invention wowed the judges of the James Dyson Award, with Dyson himself claiming:

“Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury. Airdrop shows how simple, natural principles like the condensation of water, can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering. Young designers and engineers like Edward will develop the simple, effective technology of the future – they will tackle the world’s biggest problems and improve lives in the process.”

Linacre picked up £10,000 for the AirDrop from the Dyson Award, which he will use to further develop the AirDrop system before he hopefully manages to commercialise it and help farmers all over the world.