Researchers from the University of Illinois have identified the unique physicochemical properties of cicadas’ wings. They repel water and are capable of killing germs.
Scientists already knew that many types of insect wings repel water, kill germs, reflect light in an unusual way and are self-cleaning. A new study showed that the chemical compounds that cover the wings of cicadas contribute to this, they enhance these properties.
Their wings have an ordered pattern of tiny columns on the wings. They contribute to the hydrophobicity of the wings and probably play a role in the destruction of microbes that try to attach to the wings.
To study the details of nanocolumns, scientists have developed a method for the gradual extraction of compounds to the surface without damaging the general structure of the wings. Researchers placed each wing in a solvent in a closed chamber and treated it.
It turned out that the wings of cicadas are covered with a mixture of hydrocarbons, fatty acids and oxygen-containing molecules such as sterols, alcohols and ethers. Oxygen-containing molecules were more abundant than the others, while hydrocarbons and fatty acids accounted for the largest number of outer nano still layers.