Effective directional self-gathering of drops on spine of cactus with splayed capillary arrays

Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 7;5:17757. doi: 10.1038/srep17757.


We report that the fast droplet transport without additional energy expenditure can be achieved on the spine of cactus (Gymnocalycium baldianum) with the assistance of its special surface structure: the cactus spine exhibits a cone-like structure covered with tilted scales. A single scale and the spine surface under it cooperatively construct a splayed capillary tube. The arrays of capillary tube formed by the overlapping scales build up the out layer of the spine. The serial drops would be driven by the asymmetric structure resulted from tilt-up scales-by-scales on the cone-shaped spine, and move directionally toward the bottom from top of spine, by means of the Laplace pressure in differences. In addition, after the past of the first droplet, thin liquid film of drop is trapped in the splayed capillary micro-tube on the surface of spine, which greatly reduces the friction of subsequential droplet transport in efficiency. This finding provides a new biological model which could be used to transport droplet spontaneously and directionally. Also this work offers a way to reduce the surface adhesion by constructing liquid film on the surface, which has great significance in prompting droplet transport efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cactaceae / anatomy & histology*
  • Plant Vascular Bundle / anatomy & histology*
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Water