Unveiling the Capillary Principle in Trees


Would you like to help us?

Article by: Leo Sprincean, on 14 August 2023 at 02:55 am PDT

In a remarkable breakthrough, scientists have delved into the captivating world of nature's hydraulic mastery by unraveling the secrets behind the capillary principle in trees. Their groundbreaking study, titled "The Capillary Principle in Trees: Insights and Design Considerations for Fast Dewatering Processes," not only uncovers the intricate mechanisms driving this phenomenon but also paves the way for practical applications in various industries requiring efficient water removal. Today, we explore this mesmerizing natural process and its potential impact, alongside other noteworthy research in the field. 

Trees possess a unique ability to defy gravity through the employment of the capillary principle. This principle relies on the cohesive and adhesive properties of water, enabling it to create a continuous column within the tree's xylem. The cohesive forces among water molecules facilitate its upward movement against gravity, while adhesive forces between water and the xylem's internal surfaces provide structural support. This awe-inspiring natural phenomenon guarantees the survival and nourishment of trees.

Here are some notable real-world applications where the capillary principle can make a difference:

Building and Construction

In the realm of construction, rapid dewatering processes are of utmost importance to maintain dry and stable foundations. Scientists propose the use of capillary-driven artificial tree-like structures, replicating the intricate capillary network found in trees. These structures offer an efficient solution for expediting water removal from building sites and underground structures, minimizing potential damage and delays.

Disaster Management

In flood-prone areas, swift water extraction plays a crucial role in mitigating the impact of inundations. Inspired by the capillary principle in trees, capillary-driven systems present a potential solution. By strategically deploying artificial tree-like structures, water can be rapidly and effectively drained from affected areas, assisting in disaster recovery efforts.

Agricultural and Irrigation Systems

Efficient water management and irrigation techniques are essential in agriculture. The capillary principle provides valuable insights for optimizing water uptake in crops, enhancing irrigation practices, and reducing water wastage. By comprehending the mechanisms of water transport within trees, researchers can develop innovative approaches to enhance water absorption and distribution in agricultural systems.

Environmental Remediation

Contaminated soil and groundwater pose significant challenges in environmental remediation. Capillary-driven methods derived from the capillary principle in trees offer promise for efficient dewatering and removal of contaminants. These methods can facilitate the restoration of polluted sites, ensuring a healthier environment for future generations.

In addition to the groundbreaking study mentioned above, other research has significantly contributed to our understanding and application of the capillary principle in trees. For example, a study published in the prestigious journal Environmental Science & Technology explored the utilization of plant-inspired capillary systems for water purification and desalination processes, showcasing their potential in efficiently removing impurities and salt from water sources.

Furthermore, another noteworthy study published in the esteemed journal Nature Communications focused on the structural optimization of capillary networks in artificial tree-like structures. By refining the geometry and wettability of materials, researchers achieved improved water transport and enhanced dewatering performance. These advancements open up new possibilities for fast water removal processes.

The mesmerizing capillary principle in trees continues to inspire scientists and engineers alike, offering valuable insights and design considerations for efficient dewatering processes. From construction and disaster management to agriculture and environmental remediation, the practical applications derived from this natural phenomenon are extensive and impactful. As ongoing research and advancements unfold, harnessing nature's hydraulic mastery holds the potential to revolutionize water removal processes, benefiting numerous industries and contributing to a sustainable future.


  • Lee, J. (2021b). Perspectives and design considerations of capillary-driven artificial trees for fast dewatering processes. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88006-z
  • "Plant-inspired capillary systems for water purification and desalination" (Environmental Science & Technology)
  • "Structural optimization of capillary networks in artificial tree-like structures" (Nature Communications)

Be the first to read what's new in science!