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Insects to Slip on New Surface Coatings

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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A new coating may be able to deter beetles, cockroaches and ants from entering your home.

Researchers at Germany’s University of Freiburg say they have developed a bio-inspired, anti-adhesion synthetic surface that will cause insects to slip off of windows, facades and air conditioner elements, according to the University’s announcement on the research.

Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg

Scientists from the University of Freiburg say they have developed a plant-inspired anti-adhesion coating that will cause insects to slip off windows and other surfaces.

The scientists recently published their findings in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

In order to develop the coating, the team studied plant surfaces to determine what influence cell form, microstructure and surface chemistry exert on the adhesion behavior of insects.

Tracking the Beetle Steps

The scientists conducted adhesion experiments in which Colorado potato beetles walked across differently structured plant surfaces and replicas made of synthetic resins.

Using a sensor to detect 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, the university reported.

Cuticular folds are small folds in the cuticle, a protective layer on the surface of the leaf resembling polyester, the team said.

The beetles observed had the most difficult time walking on surfaces with cuticular folds with a height and width of approximately 0.5 micrometers and a spacing of between 0.5 and 1.5 micrometers, the team explained.


Anti-adhesive coatings could be applied to facades and window frames to prevent insects that move predominantly by walking from entering the house, according to the researchers.

“That is the perfect anti-adhesion surface. The insects slip off of it much easier than off glass,” said project director Dr. Thomas Speck.

The cuticular folds reduce the contact area between the adhesive hairs on the beetles’ legs and the plant surface, i.e., a 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 concluded.

Wettability Tested

During the research, the team also took contact angle measurements to investigate the wettability of the various surfaces.

The researchers used hydrophobic and hydrophilic artificial moldings of the microstructured plant surfaces to study the influence of the surface chemistry on surface wettability and the beetles’ walking behavior.

Much like wax crystals, cuticular folds are very good at repelling water, the team said.

“In contrast to the wettability, which depends on both the microstructure and the surface chemistry, the walking behavior of the beetles is not influenced by the surface chemistry.

“This means that the beetle’s adhesive power depends solely on the physical microstructure of the surface,” according to the scientists.

Future Development

In the future, anti-adhesive coatings could be used to line the ventilation pipes of air conditioners, which are often teeming with cockroaches, the team said.

In addition, they could be applied to facades and window frames to prevent insects that move predominantly by walking from entering the house and invading the cupboard and medicine cabinet.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Coatings technology; Research

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