Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces

Emerging technology in all forms is rapidly changing the world we know. Scientists are looking to insects as a source of bioinspiration for the design of new artificial surfaces that have de-icing, self-cleaning and anti-fogging capabilities. Read on for more insight into this amazing scientific endeavor.

Scientists Are Studying The Cicada And Its Water-Repellant Wings

#1. Cicada In Hand

Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces
Photo Courtesy: Catherine Dana

A University of Illinois research team comprised of engineers and entomologists participated in this important study that was published in the journal, Applied Materials and Interfaces. In the words of Nenad Miljkovic, a University of Illinois mechanical science and engineering professor, “…Cicada wings have been known to exhibit a slew of interesting properties…. These traits include being anti-reflective, super hydrophobic, and anti-bacterial. We wanted to understand how these functions are achieved and how to mimic them to develop artificial surfaces.”

#2. The Cicada Wing

Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces  Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces
Desroziers Allan / Shutterstock.com

Emerging Technology and Bioinspiration

Down through time, Mother Nature has served as a source of inspiration for writers, painters and musicians. Many a majestic tree and beautiful rose have inspired artistic endeavors of all kinds, but now scientists are tapping into this colorful kaleidoscope and extracting from it some secrets that can help emerging technologies  improve the world of the future. How cicada wings can provide insight into the design of water-proof surfaces is a prime example of bioinspiration.

Bioinspiration For Developing Emerging Technologies Is Not A New Idea

Bioinspiration has worked well in the past. A bio-inspired engineer created Velcro and engineers are currently researching lotus leaves for their water-repellent (and self-cleaning) properties. Previous studies involving cicada wings concerned only one wetland species and revealed minute configurations coated in a thin layer of lipids, which repel water molecules. This new team from the University of Illinois is focused on four different species of cicada from diverse environments.

Unexpected Results Lead to More Progress for Emerging Technology

According to Catherine Dana, entomology graduate student and one co-author of the study: “We expected to find that the specimens from drier habitats would lack super-hydrophobicity (water repellant properties). We were surprised to find the opposite, and that habitat is not a good predictor of this extreme water-repelling ability of the cicada wings.”

Emerging Technologies From The World Of Nature Are Part Of Our Future

#3. Some Of The Amazing Team

Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces  Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces  Emerging Technology: Cicada Wing Bioinspiration Study Inspires New Water-Proof Surfaces
Photo: Illinois New Bureau

This University of Illinois team represents a cohesive synthesis between disparate fields of study and expertise. It is proof positive that by merging multidisciplinary skills and knowledge we can find solutions to help mankind evolve into a better, more sustainable future.

Here’s to cicadas everywhere!

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