Cicadas to inspire self-cleaning surfaces

When you think of cicadas you think of a shrill buzz that fills the summer air. In the future cicada wings may be put to practical use.

Scientists from James Cook University and Duke University have discovered that previously held notions about self-cleaning surfaces need rethinking after they studied cicada wings. Using a specially designed high-speed video imaging system the team was able to capture “jumping” water droplets on the super hydrophobic surfaces of the insect appendages.

The wings are made up of rows of tiny cones of various heights, meaning that water droplets “glide” over the tips and dislodge dirt without the need of external forces like gravity. This makes the wings truly self-cleaning, as the inherent energy in the droplet is enough to move it. Mobile phone surfaces and building rooftops may in time replicate the mechanism.

Read more at James Cook University