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Langmuir. 2006 Mar 28;22(7):3148-53.

Engineered wettability in tree capillaries.

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Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.


The water-conducting network of capillaries in plants has evolved to cope with the frequent occurrence of cavitation, which leads to air-filled capillaries that are unable to function in water transport. However, the material from which the capillaries are constructed is not perfectly wetted by water, contrary to what is often assumed and to what one might expect in an optimal design. I demonstrate that nature is able to overcome this deficiency by engineering the roughness of the capillary walls to achieve near complete wetting, a strategy analogous to that used in the natural engineering of the wettability of plant leaves and insect wings. The results provide an appealing answer to the long-standing debate on the function of wall sculpturing in plant capillaries, and may provide biomimetic clues for the engineering of wettability in technological applications such as microfluidics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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