A study published today in Applied Nanoscience sheds light on the remarkable antibacterial properties of cicada wings, offering promising insights for the development of novel antimicrobial surfaces. The research, conducted by a team led by Richard W. van Nieuwenhoven and Ille C. Gebeshuber, delves into the intricate nanostructures found on the wings of cicadas, showcasing their potential as natural antibacterial agents.

Cicadas, known for their distinctive buzzing sounds during the summer months, have long intrigued scientists with their unique wing structures. This study focuses on two species of cicadas found in New Zealand, Amphipsalta cingulata and Kikihia scutellaris, both of which possess hexagonally arranged nanopillars on their wings. These nanopillars exhibit super-hydrophobic properties, making them self-cleaning and inherently resistant to bacterial colonization.

Using advanced microscopy techniques, including Atomic Force Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy, the researchers meticulously analyzed the wing surfaces of these cicadas. They found that the nanopillars on the wings create a surface that is inhospitable to bacteria, inhibiting their adherence and proliferation. This discovery holds significant implications for various applications, particularly in the development of antibacterial coatings for medical devices.

"Our study reveals the remarkable potential of cicada wings as a source of natural antibacterial nanostructures," said Richard W. van Nieuwenhoven, lead author of the study. "By understanding the mechanisms underlying the antibacterial properties of these nanostructures, we can explore innovative approaches for combating bacterial infections and developing next-generation antimicrobial materials."

The findings of this research not only provide valuable insights into the design of biomimetic surfaces but also highlight the importance of biodiversity in inspiring technological innovations. As the world faces growing challenges posed by antibiotic resistance, exploring nature's solutions, such as the nanopillars on cicada wings, offers a promising avenue for addressing this global health threat.


van Nieuwenhoven R.W., Bürger A.M., Mears L.L.E., Kienzl P., Reithofer M., Elbe-Bürger A. and Gebeshuber I.C. (2024) "Verifying Antibacterial Properties of Nanopillars on Cicada Wings" Applied Nanoscience, Springer Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13204-024-03030-5

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Ille C. Gebeshuber is physics professor at TU Wien. She is expert in biomimetics, nanotechnology and tribology. She is a long term member of Nanopaprika and likes the Nanoposter Conferences a lot.

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