The EU-funded LiNaBioFluid project hopes to replicate skin systems in both organic and inorganic materials for underwater applications.
Reptile and skin and the skin of some bugs have unique ways of dealing with water, and this has caught the attention of scientists.
The LiNaBioFluid project is attempting to mimic the exceptional ability of lizards and bark bugs to channel water both efficiently and quickly.
Certain lizards (such as the horned and spiky lizard) have networks of microscopic capillaries on their backs that can suck in water and channel it quickly and efficiently to the lizard’s mouth, maximising their uptake of water from the limited rainfall in their desert habitats.
Bark bugs are also special in this respect. Their bodies are made up of numerous tiny spikes which create a thin film of water, reducing the insect’s reflectivity. So when it rains, the bug – just like the tree it inhabits – turns darker and it is concealed from predators.
The LiNaBioFluid will study these different body surfaces and attempt to mimic their wetting properties in both organic and inorganic industrial materials.
The project will use lasers to recreate the natural microscopic channels, ridges and spikes in their integuments.
Success could lead to innovative underwater applications, including materials with better friction, which experience less wear and tear in liquids, or exhibit reduced drag.
Other applications could include the separation of water and oil, high-power device cooling, or the development of more robust slide bearings.
The project involves participants from Greece (co-ordinator), Spain, Austria and Germany.