Anti-Adhesive Surfaces Of Plants

The war continues - a battle for the ages. Which side will win - arachnids and other insects with sticky feet, or the slippery slopes of passive carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant? Actually, materials scientists who study both sides are the real winners.

Human beings have spent a lot of time looking for perfectly frictionless surface coatings; writers like Clifford Simak and Frank Herbert have imagined them in science fiction. Just as the stickiest surfaces have been found on the feet of natural creatures like geckoes and spiders, slippery surfaces have also been found in the natural world.

Researchers from the Max Planck Insitute for Metals Research and the University of Hohenheim have shown that the carniverous pitcher plant uses an especially slippery slope to catch prey. The plant has a lid, a peristome (a ring around the trap entrance), a slippery zone and a digestive zone.


(Pitcher Plant)

The plant walls of the slippery zone are covered with a double layer of crystalline wax. The upper layer has crystalloids which contaminate the attachment organs that insects use to adhere to surfaces. It is made of single, iregular 30-50 nanometer platelets standing more or less perpendicular to the plant wall.

The lower layer is similar to foam, being made of connected membrane-like platelets which stick out at sharp angles and offer no clear orientation. This layer further reduces the contact area between insect feet and plant surface.

Writing in Way Station, a Hugo-award winning 1963 novel, Clifford Simak imagined an absolutely impenetrable and frictionless coating:

It was as if the knob was covered with some hard, slick coating, like a coat of brittle ice, on which the fingers slipped wihout exerting any pressure on the knob...

He tried a thumbnail on it, and the thumbnail slipped but left no mark behind it... The rubbing of his palm set up no friction...
(Read more about the frictionless surface)

In his 1965 novel Dune (which also won a Hugo), Frank Herbert wrote about a device for water measurement that was absolutely frictionless - no binding tension whatsoever.

Read about water repellent glass modeled on lotus leaves to find out more about a successful instance in which real-world material science was able to imitate nature. On the other side of the coin, take a look at a scientific investigation of the sticky feet of spiders.

Read more at Plants provide new ideas for anti-adhesive surfaces.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/18/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Material ")

3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'... lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.' - Robert Heinlein, 1939.

3D Printing Of Metallic Glass
Great Scott!

Draw Circuits With Conductive Ink
'It's rewiring things... squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon along the printed circuitry.'

How To Encode The 'Memory' Of Materials
'Just jar it, and it falls into that structure like a rubber figure returning to shape.' - Samuel R. Delany, 1966.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'

Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'

Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'

Would You Get 'Chipped'? Michigan May Ban Employers
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'

Tesla Autopilot: What Does An Autonomous Car See When It Looks At The Road?
'Jeremiah is a sports-model to begin with and that kind is awfully hot-tempered.'

DNA Controls Swarms Of Molecular Robots
'They exist in loose swarms...'

Tether Asteroids To Save Us All
'If anything can glue the asteroids back into the planet they once were, magnology will do it.'

Blaux Your Personal Commuter Cooling Unit
A cooling unit had to be strapped to every commuter's back, by law.

3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'...lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.'

R9X Hellfire Missile With Long Blades Kills Queda Leader
'He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him...'

Would You Swallow An Origami Robot?
'Swallow it in an emergency--it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside.'

Perhaps You Might Be Interested In Habitable Exoplanet Moon Real Estate
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Blurry Face Photos Made 60 Times Sharper
Perfect tool for blade runners.

SpaceX Will Build Floating Spaceports!
'...a single perfectly level platform, which rose so high above the water that it was not splashed by the waves.'

Fast Radio Bursts And Space Beacons For Interstellar Navigation
'Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation...'

Robot Garbage Trucks Visualized
'It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.