The origin of self-cleaning material
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Have you ever seen a cicada flying around with dirt on its wings? After all, cicadas live most of their lives in the ground. But you definitely haven’t, as all cicada wings are clean and good to fly.
Many living creatures, including cicadas, are specially evolved to clean themselves without having to groom each other. But it’s not a simple math problem with only one correct solution, as each of the living creatures have its own way of grooming itself.
Cicadas have come up with a brilliant technique to keep their wings clean and bacteria-free over the generations of evolution. Their special ability lies in their nano-sized ‘pillar arrays’ which make up for their wings. When a bacterium hits a cicada's wing, it gets punctured by the nanopillars and slides off. Moths also use similar technique to clean their eyes. Scientists have implemented this solution to develop a self-cleaning antireflective coating for solar panels (Min, Jiang & Jiang, 2008).
For human engineers and designers, the number of solutions that would be possible to derive from these brilliant strategies is tremendous. It is not a math problem.
Min, W. L., Jiang, B., & Jiang, P. (2008). Bioinspired Self‐Cleaning Antireflection Coatings. Advanced Materials, 20(20), 3914-3918.