Insect's wings could help us clean our car windscreens, according to new University of Warwick research

By James Smith

29th Sep 2023 | Local News

Cicadas are a large cricket-like insect (image via SWNS)
Cicadas are a large cricket-like insect (image via SWNS)

Cicadas could help us clean our car windscreens, according to new research.

The wings of the large cricket-like insect are unusually water repellent, allowing morning dew to collect on their surface.

Tiny water droplets on the cicada's wings then collect dust particles and micro-organisms, carrying them as the water drops off the bug.

University of Warwick scientists used a supercomputer to figure out how we can mimic the bug's wings to create self-cleaning car windscreens, skyscraper windows, solar panels, and camera lenses.

The bugs' make up could solve the never-ending task of cleaning your windscreen, the scientists said.

Each cicada wing is made up of tiny wax-coated cones that prevent the water penetrating the membrane, and encourage droplets to move along the surface rather than stay still.

The insect's particularly water-repellent wings are known as 'super hydrophobic.'

They believe a super water-repellent surface could prevent frost forming on windscreens too.

Dr Sreehari Perumanath, of the Mathematics Institute, at the University of Warwick, said: "We used large-scale molecular simulations run on a supercomputer to identify the factors influencing self-cleaning of natural, biological surfaces.

"With the new insights from this work, we are now able to predict when and how contaminants of varying size are removed by liquids, such as water or oil, from surfaces.

"In the future, such nature-inspired self-cleaning surfaces could replace windowpanes in our homes and body panels on cars and other vehicles that currently require us to painstakingly clean them.

"Our research also indicates how we can economically position nanoparticles on engineering surfaces using droplets which will benefit emerging applications – including biosensors and enhanced energy transfer in solar panels.

"However, such bespoke applications of droplet-enabled particle transport require further investigations."

For the study published in Nano Letters, the team used mathematical models and computer simulations to analyse the wing structure.


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