Butterfly Wings Inspire New High-Tech Surfaces

A South American butterfly flapped its wings, and caused a flurry of nanotechnology research to happen in Ohio and may lead to new high-tech surfaces for aircraft and watercraft, pipelines, and medical equipments.

For example, researchers were able to clean up to 85% of dust off a coated plastic surface that mimicked the texture of a butterfly wing, compared to only 70% off a flat surface. Ohio State University engineers report that textures enhance fluid flow and prevent surfaces from getting dirty.
“Nature has evolved many surfaces that are self-cleaning or reduce drag,” said Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. “Reduced drag is desirable for industry, whether you’re trying to move a few drops of blood through a nano-channel or millions of gallons of crude oil through a pipeline. And self-cleaning surfaces would be useful for medical equipment—catheters, or anything that might harbor bacteria.”
The electron microscope revealed that the Blue Morpho’s wings aren’t as smooth as they look to the naked eye. Instead, the surface texture resembles a clapboard roof with rows of overlapping shingles radiating out from the butterfly’s body, suggesting that water and dirt roll off the wings “like water off a roof,” Bhushan said.