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Biophys J. 2008 Apr 15;94(8):3352-60. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.107.109348. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Putative functions and functional efficiency of ordered cuticular nanoarrays on insect wings.

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Nanoscale Science and Technology Centre, School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia.


The putative functions and functional efficiencies of periodic nanostructures on the surface of cicada wings have been investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM) used as a tool for imaging, manipulation, and probing of adhesion. The structures consist of hexagonal close-packed protrusions with a lateral spacing of approximately 200 nm and may have multiple functionalities. Not only do the structures confer survival value by virtue of camouflage, but they may also serve as antiwetting and self-cleaning surfaces and thus be resistant to contamination. These effects have been demonstrated by exposure to white light, liquid droplets, and AFM adhesion measurements. The dependence of optical reflectivity and surface adhesion on surface topography has been demonstrated using AFM as a nanomachining tool as well as an imaging and force-sensing probe. The intact arrays display exceptionally low adhesion for particles in the size range 20 nm-40 microm. The particles can be removed from the array by forces in the range 2-20 nN; conversely, forces in the range 25-230 nN are required to remove identical particles from a flat hydrophilic surface (i.e., polished Si). Measurements of contact angles for several liquids and particle adhesion studies show that the wing represents a low-surface-energy membrane with antiwetting properties. The inference is that a combination of chemistry and structure constitutes a natural technology for conferring resistance to contamination.

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