Cicada wings are the key to revolutionizing bactericidal surfaces

Medical devices such as catheters and implants are prone to bacterial colonization and biofilm formation, leading to infections and other complications. Scientists are working to develop effective bactericidal surfaces to prevent such problems. For inspiration, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York turned to the wings of cicadas.

Cicada wings have long been known for their antibacterial properties, but their mechanism of action has remained unclear until now. The researchers used modeling to study the function of blunt spines on the surface of cicada wings and made some surprising discoveries.

The team found that the surfaces of the ultra-small nanopillars, which are about 10 nm high, 50 nm wide and 70 nm apart, are very effective at killing Escherichia coli bacteria, as well as releasing them for at least 36 hours without leaving a buildup of dead bacteria or debris on the surfaces. This is very important because when the bacteria cells are killed and absorbed into the surface, their debris remains on the surface and creates a more favorable environment for their brethren that are absorbed on top of them.

The researchers used a polymer often used in packaging to create tiny silicon-based pillar-shaped structures that mimic the nanopillars of a cicada’s wing. The diblock polymer was able to create the nanostructures on its own, provided the environment was controlled. Although the polymer used was conventional, it had the same or similar properties as the cicada wing bactericidal columns.

The research team tested different sizes of nanopillars to see how this would affect the process. They found that the height of the columns made a big difference to the nanostructure, as it was originally thought that the height of the columns acted like a needle piercing the bacterial membrane.

The findings could solve a major public health problem by enabling the development of more effective bactericidal surfaces. Researchers have previously studied the chemical and physical characteristics of cicada and dragonfly wings, but much remains unclear about their antibacterial properties, such as how they remove traces of their bacterial victims.

“At this point, we know that the cicada wing can prevent bacteria from sticking, but the mechanism is unclear,” said Tadanori Koga, a chemical engineer at Stony Brook University.

Understanding this natural process could lead to revolutionary advances in health and medical technology, preventing infections and improving patient outcomes.”

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