Bugs Are Bugged By Super Slippery Nanotech Surface

Want to bug some bugs? Place them on an experimental nanotech coated surface that removes nearly all the friction generated by the bugs' bristled feet, then observe hilarity ensue as the critters are literally stopped in their tracks.

Here comes the science: A team of researchers from Japan's National Institute for Materials Science and Germany's Max Planck Society has devised a new nanoscale materials coating that throws the proverbial banana peel beneath unwanted insect feet. The coating, composed of sprayed-on aluminum mist with tiny bumps under 300 nanometers in height, effectively reduces the friction between bugs' finely bristled feet and the coated surface by up to 97 percent.

According to Naoe Hosoda, a group leader at the National Institute for Materials Science, "With lightweight bugs there is a strong attraction between their feet bristles and the surface, but on surfaces with bumps of a certain height the bristles lose their adhesiveness and it becomes difficult for the bugs to walk."

Larger animals such as certain Gecko lizards also use their finely bristled feet to climb slick and/or vertical surfaces. "If we apply this principle," continued Hosoda, "it may be possible to stop small bugs such as ants and cockroaches from getting into small gaps into precision equipments such as fax machines without killing them."

Why is this important? Bugs can cause irreparable damage to electronic devices by eating insulation, and the detritus they leave can cause electrical malfunctions on exposed circuit boards. Insecticides only act against bugs AFTER they've gotten into the circuitry - and the devices' fans can spread toxins throughout the workplace environment.

Should this new nanotech frictionless surface coating continue to be refined, precision instruments could be pest-proofed proactively while keeping toxic sprays and chemical insect repellents on the shelves. Hurrah! Or at least, "Nano Nano!" (via Mainichi Daily News, main image via Gary Blau)