Beetle-inspired moisture control

This Namid Desert beetle was the inspiration for a new material that can control the movement of tiny drops of water. Developed by MIT researchers, the material is made up of a water-repelling surface dotted with tiny bumps that attract water. The material could someday be used to control fluids in tiny labs-on-a-chip for DNA screening and medical diagnostics. The work was funded by the US military who have "expressed interest in using the material as a self-decontaminating surface that could channel and collect harmful substances." From the MIT News Office:

NamibThe researchers got their inspiration after reading a 2001 article in Nature describing the Namib Desert beetle's moisture-collection strategy. Scientists had already learned to copy the water-repellent lotus leaf, and the desert beetle shell seemed like another good candidate for "bio-mimicry..."

The desert beetle has evolved to take perfect advantage of the tiny amount of water available in the desert. The fog that drifts over the Namib Desert is so light that normal condensation can't take place, so "you need something specially designed to hold and collect that condensation," (materials scientist Michael) Rubner said.

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