Not all failures are bad—sometimes, they lead to accidental discoveries, just like what happened to researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

In a botched experiment (but what was ultimately a blessing in disguise), scientists found that carbon-rich nanorods might be ideal for harvesting water. It showed that in low humidity (below 50%), the rods trap water inside their gaps; if the humidity increases, however, they expel the water as vapor.

The goal is to refine the shape of these nanorods and get them to spray water on a consistent basis. If successful, it could be an ideal tool for harvesting and purifying water in dry climates. People can use it to gather ambient moisture until there's enough to drink. A few more tweaks and it could also be used for anti-sweat clothing that can soak up perspiration and spit it outside.

So much potential—and it can only go uphill from here.

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