Material inspired by dragonfly wings bursts bacteria

Prickly silicon could act as antimicrobial coating on medical devices

11:14am, November 26, 2013

KILLER WINGS  Etched black silicon can mimic the nanoscale spikes that naturally occur on the wings of the dragonfly Diplacodes bipunctata (center). A synthetic surface with similar nanostructures, just 500 nanometers tall, can rupture bacterial cells and spores (scanning electron micrograph, lower right; computer-generated representation, upper left).

Tiny spikes on a silicon surface can stab and kill any bacteria that make contact, researchers report November 26 in Nature Communications. Scientists could foil infectious bacteria by using the new surface architecture as a coating on medical devices and food-processing equipment.

Microbiologist Elena Ivanova of Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Australia, and colleagues designed the nanoarchitecture by taking cues from bacteria-free surfaces in nature such as insect wings. Using scanning electron microscopy, the team discovered that dragonfly wings have protrusions, just 240 nanometers tall, which appeared to pop bacterial cells that tried to attach to the wing.

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