New insect-repelling coating unveiled

Scientists from Germany's University of Freiburg have developed a bio-inspired, anti-adhesive surface coating which they claim can deter a plethora of annoying bugs and insects, including Beetles, cockroaches and ants.

The researchers began by conducting adhesion experiments in which Colorado potato beetles walked across differently structured plant surfaces, as well as replicas made of synthetic resins.

A sensor was used to measure the traction forces of the beetles on various surfaces. The team discovered that wavy or strongly curved cells can increase the adhesive powers of beetles, whereas microstructures composed of wax crystals or cuticular folds reduce them.

"That is the perfect anti-adhesion surface," said project leader Thomas Speck. "The insects slip off of it much easier than off glass. The cuticular folds reduce the contact area between the adhesive hairs on the beetles' legs and the plant surface.

"Unlike on more coarsely structured surfaces, the beetle can't dig its feet firmly into the cuticular folds. Thus, the microstructure of the surface has a stronger effect on the adhesion of the beetle than the cell form."

The team also took contact angle measurements to investigate the wettability of the various surfaces. Hydrophobic and hydrophilic artificial mouldings of the microstructured plant surfaces were used in order to study the influence of the surface chemistry on surface wettability and the beetles' walking behaviour.

In the future, the researchers believe the anti-adhesion surfaces could be used to line the ventilation pipes of air conditioners, which are often teeming with cockroaches.

They could also be applied to facades and window frames, Speck says, to prevent insects from entering the home.

Laura Hopperton

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