It turned out that deserts can breathe water

(ORDO NEWS) — Deserts seem like lifeless sheets covering our planet, but this is just an illusion! Sand dunes are constantly growing and moving, and according to a multi-year research project, they also breathe humid air.

The results of the new study show for the first time how water vapor penetrates sand grains. This observation could have broad applications beyond the desert, in pharmaceutical research, agriculture and the food industry, and in the study of other planets.

What did scientists discover?

It turned out that deserts can breathe water 2

Michel Louge began to study the behavior of liquids, gases and solid particles 40 years ago. Wanting to measure matter with greater sensitivity, he and his students created an instrument called a capacitive probe, which uses several sensors to record readings from solid concentration to velocity and water content.

In the early 2000s, Puddle began collaborating with French colleagues to study moisture in sand dunes to better understand how farmlands turn into deserts (very relevant these days due to rising temperatures).

As a result, scientists found that the sand is so porous that a small amount of air seeps through it. Previous studies have hinted at the existence of this type of seepage in sand dunes, but so far no one has been able to prove it.

“The wind flows around the dune and as a result creates an imbalance in local pressure that literally forces air in and out of the sand. So, the sand breathes, as the body breathes, ”writes Luzh.

This “breathing” allows microbes to persist deep inside the arid sand dunes, despite the heat. For the past 10 years, Luz and his colleagues have been studying how microbes can help stabilize the dunes and prevent them from infiltrating urban infrastructures.

So the team determined that desert surfaces were exchanging less moisture with the atmosphere than expected, and that the evaporation of water from individual grains of sand behaved like a slow chemical reaction.

These results show that Puddle probes can also be applied in “everyday” human activities. For example, to study how soil absorbs or drains water in rural areas.


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