Fouling of nanostructured insect cuticle: adhesion of natural and artificial contaminants

Biofouling. 2011;27(10):1125-37. doi: 10.1080/08927014.2011.637187.


The adhesional properties of contaminating particles of scales of various lengths were investigated for a wide range of micro- and nanostructured insect wing cuticles. The contaminating particles consisted of artificial hydrophilic (silica) and spherical hydrophobic (C(18)) particles, and natural pollen grains. Insect wing cuticle architectures with an open micro-/nanostructure framework demonstrated topographies for minimising solid-solid and solid-liquid contact areas. Such structuring of the wing membranes allows for a variety of removal mechanisms to contend with particle contact, such as wind and self-cleaning droplet interactions. Cuticles exhibiting high contact angles showed considerably lower particle adhesional forces than more hydrophilic insect surfaces. Values as low as 3 nN were recorded in air for silica of ~28 nm in diameter and <25 nN for silica particles 30 μm in diameter. A similar adhesional trend was also observed for contact with pollen particles.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesiveness
  • Animals
  • Biofouling*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Insecta / classification
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Insecta / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nanostructures / ultrastructure*
  • Particle Size
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Surface Properties
  • Wings, Animal / physiology
  • Wings, Animal / ultrastructure*


  • Silicon Dioxide