Large Fog Collectors: New Strategies for Collection Efficiency and Structural Response to Wind Pressure
Most studies of large fog collectors (LFC) have focused on the collection efficiency, the amount of water collected, or economic and social aspects, but have not addressed the effects of strong winds on the system. Wind pressure is directly related to fog water collection efficiency but on the other hand may cause serious damage on the structure of LFCs. This study focuses in the effects of wind pressure on the components of the LFC as an integral system, and the ways to face strong winds with no significant damage. For this purpose we analysed cases of mechanical failure of LFCs both in our experimental station at Peña Blanca in Chile and elsewhere.The effects of wind pressure can be described as a sequence of physical processes, starting with the mesh deformation as a way of adapting to the induced stresses. For a big enough pressure, local stress concentrations generate a progressive rupture of the mesh. In cases where the mesh is sufficiently strong the wind force causes the partial or total collapse of the structure. Usually the weakest part is the mesh, especially close to where it is attached to the structure. The way the mesh is attached to the frame or cable of the structure is particularly important since it can induce significant stress concentrations. Mesh failure before the structure failure may be considered as a mechanical fuse, since it is cheaper to repair. However, more practical mechanical fuses can be conceived. In relation to structural performance and water collection efficiency, we propose a new design strategy that considers a three-dimensional spatial display of the collection screen, oblique incidence angle of wind on mesh and small mesh area between the supporting frame. The proposed design strategies consider both the wind pressure on mesh and structure and the collection efficiency as an integral solution for the LFC. These new design strategies are the final output of this research. Applying these strategies a multi-funnel LFC is proposed, which is far more efficient than the conventional one, and even though it is more expensive, the final cost of the collected water should be notoriously reduced.