a-bacterial  A vast hexagonal array of blunt spikes (nanopillars) cover Psaltoda claripennis wings, shown on a similar size scale to bacteria    Photo Credit Biophysical Journal

The veined wing of the clanger cicada, a locust-like insect, is the only known natural surface that can shred bacteria to pieces.

Scientists are working to replicate the structure of the wings and develop an antibacterial material to kill disease-causing microbes on contact on surfaces such as counter- and desktops and doorknobs in homes and workplaces and on bus railings or subway poles in public places.

Nature News reported, “When a bacterium settles on the wing surface, its cellular membrane sticks to the surface of the nanopillars and stretches into the crevices between them, where it experiences the most strain.

“If the membrane is soft enough, it ruptures.”

Study author Elena Ivanova of Swinburne University of Technology in Australia likens the process to the stretching of a latex glove:  “If you take hold of a piece of latex in both hands and slowly stretch it, it will become thinner at the center . . . and will begin to tear.

“This would provide a passive bacteria-killing surface,” Ivanova continued, adding that the process wouldn’t require environmentally harmful active agents such as detergents.

To watch a video of a model of the clanger cicada’s wing shredding bacteria, go to


Source:   Smart Planet Daily, March 6, 2013    Nature News, March 5, 2013     Study published in Biophysical Journal, March 2013


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