So what am I talking about A BUG that can what? Am I going crazy? No, I don’t think so. Bugs are usually related to stinky, disgusting things like garbage. So how can they make our world cleaner? Well, it’s actually only one bug. Clanger cicada's natural physical structure can destroy bacteria. Well, it’s wings.
So How Does the Wings Kill Bacteria?
The clanger cicada wings kill bacteria using physical properties instead of the usual chemical properties we use to kill bacteria. The wings of the cicada have tiny 200 nanometres (a nanometre is one billion times smaller than a meter) tall nanopillars (nanopillars are tiny cones) that are spaced out on the wing, facing up and in a hexagonal position. The nanopillars tear apart the bacteria cell membrane. The nanopillars are blunt so it doesn’t puncture the bacteria membrane and instead destroys it like if you were to stretch a rubber glove. The glove stretches and gets thinner in the middle and eventually tears. Unfortunately, the way the nanopillars destroy the bacteria means that more rigid bacteria cell membranes won’t break on the nanopillars.
How Are Nanopillars Made Synthetically?
Nanopillars can be made using nanolithography. Nanolithography consists of two main methods. Essentially, one method is etching molecules away till the desired structure is left and the other making the structure similar to how a 3D printer would make things, where they write out the desired structure. Nanolithography only costs 10–30 dollars an hour at Ralph N. Adams Nanofabrication Facility. Aswell, nanotech like nano transistors have already been commercialized.
What Does This Mean?
Sadly, even though it’s been more than 7 years since this been discovered and studies have been conducted proving the antibacterial properties. Yet there are no antibacterial products that use the cicada’s wing's nanostructure because it’s not that effective.
The cicada isn’t the only animal that has these bacteria busting abilities. Geckos’ skin has the same abilities but better. The geckos’ skin has nanopillars 100 nanometres wide and a higher density of them compared to the cicada’s. On top of that, the gecko’s nanostructures can stand the everyday wear and tear of anti-bacterial products. The geckos’ nanopillars killed bacteria differently thought when the bacteria moves they get caught and skewered these nanopillars.
The gecko’s nanostructures are 88% effective against soft-shelled bacteria and 66% effective against hard-shelled bacteria as opposed to the chemical anti-bacterial product that are almost perfect.
It is amazing to imagine the potential these nanostructures could have in the future. They could make a film of these materials and apply them to hospital equipment, counters, etc or they could apply them to hotel blankets, doorknobs, elevator buttons and more. These types of discoveries would not have been possible if the scientist didn’t go outside and look at the world with a curious mindset. So go take a walk, get out from behind that desk and do something!
- The nanostructure of the cicada’s wing is a hexagonal arrangement of nanopillars spread out across the wing.
- The cicada’s nanopillars cannot destroy rigid bacteria cell membrane because it destroys bacteria by stretching them.
- Other nanostructures are already used and have been commercialized.
- Gecko’s skin’s nanostructures are more effective at destroying bacteria.
- Experiences and looking at the world with a curious mindset can fuel good ideas and interesting discoveries.
but for all those that came for a cute gecko picture here it is: