Hierarchically structured flower leaves (petals) of many plants are superhydrophobic, but water droplets do not roll-off when the surfaces are tilted. On such surfaces water droplets are in the “Cassie impregnating wetting state”, which is also known as the “petal effect”. By analyzing the petal surfaces of different species, we discovered interesting new wetting characteristics of the surface of the flower of the wild pansy (Viola tricolor). This surface is superhydrophobic with a static contact angle of 169° and very low hysteresis, i.e., the petal effect does not exist and water droplets roll-off as from a lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) leaf. However, the surface of the wild pansy petal does not possess the wax crystals of the lotus leaf. Its petals exhibit high cone-shaped cells (average size 40 µm) with a high aspect ratio (2.1) and a very fine cuticular folding (width 260 nm) on top. The applied water droplets are in the Cassie–Baxter wetting state and roll-off at inclination angles below 5°. Fabricated hydrophobic polymer replicas of the wild pansy were prepared in an easy two-step moulding process and possess the same wetting characteristics as the original flowers. In this work we present a technical surface with a new superhydrophobic, low adhesive surface design, which combines the hierarchical structuring of petals with a wetting behavior similar to that of the lotus leaf.
anti-adhesive; petal effect; petal structures; polymer replication; superhydrophobic
Lotus leaves have become an icon for superhydrophobicity and self-cleaning surfaces, and have led to the concept of the ‘Lotus effect’. Although many other plants have superhydrophobic surfaces with almost similar contact angles, the lotus shows better stability and perfection of its water repellency. Here, we compare the relevant properties such as the micro- and nano-structure, the chemical composition of the waxes and the mechanical properties of lotus with its competitors. It soon becomes obvious that the upper epidermis of the lotus leaf has developed some unrivaled optimizations. The extraordinary shape and the density of the papillae are the basis for the extremely reduced contact area between surface and water drops. The exceptional dense layer of very small epicuticular wax tubules is a result of their unique chemical composition. The mechanical robustness of the papillae and the wax tubules reduce damage and are the basis for the perfection and durability of the water repellency. A reason for the optimization, particularly of the upper side of the lotus leaf, can be deduced from the fact that the stomata are located in the upper epidermis. Here, the impact of rain and contamination is higher than on the lower epidermis. The lotus plant has successfully developed an excellent protection for this delicate epistomatic surface of its leaves.
epicuticular wax; leaf surface; Lotus effect; papillae; water repellency
Superhydrophobic surfaces of plants and animals are of great interest for biomimetic applications. Whereas the self-cleaning properties of superhydrophobic surfaces have been extensively investigated, their ability to retain an air film while submerged under water has not, in the past, received much attention. Nevertheless, air retaining surfaces are of great economic and ecological interest because an air film can reduce friction of solid bodies sliding through the water. This opens perspectives for biomimetic applications such as low friction fluid transport or friction reduction on ship hulls. For such applications the durability of the air film is most important. While the air film on most superhydrophobic surfaces usually lasts no longer than a few days, a few semi-aquatic plants and insects are able to hold an air film over a longer time period. Currently, we found high air film persistence under hydrostatic conditions for the elytra of the backswimmer Notonecta glauca which we therefore have chosen for further investigations. In this study, we compare the micro- and nanostructure of selected body parts (sternites, upper side of elytra, underside of elytra) in reference to their air retaining properties. Our investigations demonstrate outstanding air film persistence of the upper side of the elytra of Notonecta glauca under hydrostatic and hydrodynamic conditions. This hierarchically structured surface was able to hold a complete air film under hydrostatic conditions for longer than 130 days while on other body parts with simple structures the air film showed gaps (underside of elytra) or even vanished completely after a few days (sternites). Moreover, the upper side of the elytra was able to keep an air film up to flow velocities of 5 m/s. Obviously the complex surface structure with tiny dense microtrichia and two types of larger specially shaped setae is relevant for this outstanding ability. Besides high air film persistence, the observation of a considerable fluid velocity directly at the air–water interface indicates the ability to reduce friction significantly. The combination of these two abilities makes these hierarchically structured surfaces extremely interesting as a biomimetic model for low friction fluid transport or drag reduction on ship hulls.
air film; aquatic insects; backswimmer; drag reduction; superhydrophobic surfaces
Some plants and animals feature superhydrophobic surfaces capable of retaining a layer of air when submerged under water. Long-term air retaining surfaces (Salvinia-effect) are of high interest for biomimetic applications like drag reduction in ship coatings of up to 30%. Here we present a novel method for measuring air volumes and air loss under water. We recorded the buoyancy force of the air layer on leaf surfaces of four different Salvinia species and on one biomimetic surface using a highly sensitive custom made strain gauge force transducer setup. The volume of air held by a surface was quantified by comparing the buoyancy force of the specimen with and then without an air layer. Air volumes retained by the Salvinia-surfaces ranged between 0.15 and 1 L/m2 depending on differences in surface architecture. We verified the precision of the method by comparing the measured air volumes with theoretical volume calculations and could find a good agreement between both values. In this context we present techniques to calculate air volumes on surfaces with complex microstructures. The introduced method also allows to measure decrease or increase of air layers with high accuracy in real-time to understand dynamic processes.
air layer; biomimetic; drag reduction; functional surfaces; plastron; Salvinia effect; volume measurement
The lateral line system of fish consists of superficial neuromasts, and neuromasts embedded in lateral line canals. Lateral line neuromasts allow fish to sense both minute water motions and pressure gradients, thereby enabling them to detect predators and prey or to recognize and discriminate stationary objects while passing them. With the aid of the lateral line, fish can also sense vortices caused by an upstream object or by undulatory swimming movements of fish. We show here that artificial lateral line canals equipped with optical flow sensors can be used to detect the water motions generated by a stationary vibrating sphere, the vortices caused by an upstream cylinder or the water (air) movements caused by a passing object. The hydrodynamic information retrieved from optical flow sensors can be used to calculate bulk flow velocity and thus the size of the cylinder that shed the vortices. Even a bilateral sensor platform equipped with only one artificial lateral line canal on each side is sufficient to determine the position of an upstream cylinder.
artificial lateral line; biomimetics; flow sensor; mechanoreception; optical sensor
We present here the first results on the self-assembly of tubules of natural wax from lotus leaves on a single crystal Au(111) surface. A comparison of the tubule growth on Au(111) to that on HOPG is discussed. Although the tubule formation on both Au(111) and HOPG takes place on an intermediate wax film which should mask the substrate properties, the tubule orientations differ. In contrast to a vertical tubule orientation on HOPG, the tubules lie flat on Au(111). Taking into account the physical properties of HOPG and Au(111), we put forward a hypothesis which can explain the different tubule orientations on both substrates.
AFM; Au(111); lotus wax
The natural composite nacre is characterised by astonishing mechanical properties, although the main constituent is a brittle mineral shaped as tablets interdispersed by organic layers. To mimic the natural formation process which takes place at ambient conditions an understanding of the mechanism responsible for a defined microstructure of nacre is necessary. Since proteins are assumed to be involved in this mechanism, it is advantageous to identify distinct proteins interacting with minerals from the totality of proteins contained in nacre. Here, we adopted and modified a recently published approach given by Suzuki et al.  that gives a hint of specific protein–mineral interactions. Synthesised aragonite or calcite microcrystals were incubated with a protein mixture extracted from nacre of Haliotis laevigata. After incubation the mineral phase was dissolved and investigated for attached proteins. The results give a hint of one protein that seems to bind specifically to aragonite and not to calcite. The presented protocol seems to be suitable to detect mineral binding proteins quickly and therefore can point to proteins whose mineral binding capabilities should be investigated further.
biomineralisation; biomineralising proteins; Haliotis; nacre; protein–mineral interaction
Background: Controlled transport of microdroplets is a topic of interest for various applications. It is well known that liquid droplets move towards areas of minimum contact angle if placed on a flat solid surface exhibiting a gradient of contact angle. This effect can be utilised for droplet manipulation. In this contribution we describe how controlled droplet movement can be achieved by a surface pattern consisting of cones and funnels whose length scales are comparable to the droplet diameter.
Results: The surface energy of a droplet attached to a cone in a symmetry-preserving way can be smaller than the surface energy of a freely floating droplet. If the value of the contact angle is fixed and lies within a certain interval, then droplets sitting initially on a cone can gain energy by moving to adjacent cones.
Conclusion: Surfaces covered with cone-shaped protrusions or cavities may be devised for constructing “band-conveyors” for droplets. In our approach, it is essentially the surface structure which is varied, not the contact angle. It may be speculated that suitably patterned surfaces are also utilised in biological surfaces where a large variety of ornamentations and surface structuring are often observed.
microdroplets; microfluidics; surface; surface energy; surface structures
Several lizard species that live in arid areas have developed special abilities to collect water with their bodies' surfaces and to ingest the so collected moisture. This is called rain- or moisture-harvesting. The water can originate from air humidity, fog, dew, rain or even from humid soil. The integument (i.e., the skin plus skin derivatives such as scales) has developed features so that the water spreads and is soaked into a capillary system in between the reptiles' scales. Within this capillary system the water is transported to the mouth where it is ingested. We have investigated three different lizard species which have developed the ability for moisture harvesting independently, viz. the Australian thorny devil (Moloch horridus), the Arabian toadhead agama (Phrynocephalus arabicus) and the Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum). All three lizards have a honeycomb like micro ornamentation on the outer surface of the scales and a complex capillary system in between the scales. By investigation of individual scales and by producing and characterising polymer replicas of the reptiles' integuments, we found that the honeycomb like structures render the surface superhydrophilic, most likely by holding a water film physically stable. Furthermore, the condensation of air humidity is improved on this surface by about 100% in comparison to unstructured surfaces. This allows the animals to collect moisture with their entire body surface. The collected water is transported into the capillary system. For Phrynosoma cornutum we found the interesting effect that, in contrast to the other two investigated species, the water flow in the capillary system is not uniform but directed to the mouth. Taken together we found that the micro ornamentation yields a superhydrophilic surface, and the semi-tubular capillaries allow for an efficient passive – and for Phrynosoma directed – transport of water.
capillary; horned lizard; rain harvesting; thorny devil; water transport
Beetles of the genus Melanophila and certain flat bugs of the genus Aradus actually approach forest fires. For the detection of fires and of hot surfaces the pyrophilous species of both genera have developed infrared (IR) receptors, which have developed from common hair mechanoreceptors. Thus, this type of insect IR receptor has been termed photomechanic and shows the following two special features: (i) The formation of a complex cuticular sphere consisting of an outer exocuticular shell as well as of a cavernous microfluidic core and (ii) the enclosure of the dendritic tip of the mechanosensitive neuron inside the core in a liquid-filled chamber. Most probably a photomechanic IR sensillum acts as a microfluidic converter of infrared radiation which leads to an increase in internal pressure inside the sphere, which is measured by a mechanosensitive neuron.
A simple model for this biological IR sensor is a modified Golay sensor in which the gas has been replaced by a liquid. Here, the absorbed IR radiation results in a pressure increase of the liquid and the deflection of a thin membrane. For the evaluation of this model analytical formulas are presented, which permits the calculation of the pressure increase in the cavity, the deformation of the membrane and the time constant of an artificial leak to compensate ambient temperature changes. Some organic liquids with high thermal expansion coefficients may improve the deflection of the membrane compared to water.
fire detection; forest fire; Golay cell; infrared sensor; pyrophilous insects
Branching in plants is one of the most important assets for developing large arborescent growth forms with complex crowns. While the form and development of branching in gymnosperms and dicotyledonous trees is widely understood, very little is known about branching patterns and the structure of branch–stem-junctions in arborescent monocotyledons. For a better and quantitative understanding of the functional morphology of branch–stem-junctions in arborescent monocotyledons, we investigated the two species Dracaena reflexa and Freycinetia insignis. While D. reflexa is able to develop large arborescent forms with conspicuous crowns by anomalous secondary growth, F. insignis remains relatively small and is only capable of primary growth. Biomechanical investigations were performed by applying vertical loads up to rupture to lateral branches of both species. This allows the analysis of the fracture mechanics and the determination of the maximal force, stress and strain at rupture as well as the fracture toughness. Functional morphology was correlated with the mechanical behaviour of these plants and compared to data of other dicotyledonous trees. The high energy absorption found in the rupture process of lateral branches of D. reflexa and F. insignis makes them promising biological concept generators with a high potential for biomimetic implementation, i.e., for the development of branched fibre-reinforced technical composites. A wide range of constructional elements with branched (sub-)structures can be optimised by using solutions inspired by plant ramifications, e.g., in automotive and aerospace engineering, architecture, sports equipment and prosthetic manufacturing.
Biomimetics; branching; Dracaena reflexa; Freycinetia insignis; monocotyledons
In the wetting of a solid by a liquid it is often assumed that the substrate is rigid. However, for an elastic substrate the rigidity depends on the cube of its thickness and so reduces rapidly as the substrate becomes thinner as it approaches becoming a thin sheet. In such circumstances, it has been shown that the capillary forces caused by a contacting droplet of a liquid can shape the solid rather than the solid shaping the liquid. A substrate can be bent and folded as a (pinned) droplet evaporates or even instantaneously and spontaneously wrapped on contact with a droplet. When this effect is used to create three dimensional shapes from initially flat sheets, the effect is called capillary origami or droplet wrapping.
In this work, we consider how the conditions for the spontaneous, capillary induced, folding of a thin ribbon substrate might be altered by a rigid surface structure that, for a rigid substrate, would be expected to create Cassie–Baxter and Wenzel effects. For smooth thin substrates, droplet wrapping can occur for all liquids, including those for which the Young’s law contact angle (defined by the interfacial tensions) is greater than 90° and which would therefore normally be considered relatively hydrophobic. However, consideration of the balance between bending and interfacial energies suggests that the tendency for droplet wrapping can be suppressed for some liquids by providing the flexible solid surface with a rigid topographic structure. In general, it is known that when a liquid interacts with such a structure it can either fully penetrate the structure (the Wenzel case) or it can bridge between the asperities of the structure (the Cassie–Baxter case).
In this report, we show theoretically that droplet wrapping should occur with both types of solid–liquid contact. We also derive a condition for the transition between the Cassie–Baxter and Wenzel type droplet wrapping and relate it to the same transition condition known to apply to superhydrophobic surfaces. The results are given for both droplets being wrapped by thin ribbons and for solid grains encapsulating droplets to form liquid marbles.
capillary origami; Cassie; contact angle; superhydrophobic; Wenzel
Climate change represents a major challenge to the maintenance of global biodiversity. To date, the direction and magnitude of net changes in the global distribution of plant diversity remain elusive. We use the empirical multi-variate relationships between contemporary water-energy dynamics and other non-climatic predictor variables to model the regional capacity for plant species richness (CSR) and its projected future changes. We find that across all analysed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenarios, relative changes in CSR increase with increased projected temperature rise. Between now and 2100, global average CSR is projected to remain similar to today (+0.3%) under the optimistic B1/+1.8°C scenario, but to decrease significantly (−9.4%) under the ‘business as usual’ A1FI/+4.0°C scenario. Across all modelled scenarios, the magnitude and direction of CSR change are geographically highly non-uniform. While in most temperate and arctic regions, a CSR increase is expected, the projections indicate a strong decline in most tropical and subtropical regions. Countries least responsible for past and present greenhouse gas emissions are likely to incur disproportionately large future losses in CSR, whereas industrialized countries have projected moderate increases. Independent of direction, we infer that all changes in regional CSR will probably induce on-site species turnover and thereby be a threat to native floras.
biodiversity patterns; global warming; water-energy dynamics; water-energy-richness hypothesis