Gecko Skin

Australian researchers have discovered that gecko skin has extraordinary material properties and it could have a significant impact on industries ranging from industrial, to building to medical.

The team, led by Dr. Greg Watson and the University of Hong Kong’s Dr David Green discovered that gecko skin repels water by making the droplets clump together and then self-launch from the surface.

“The skin has dome-shaped scales covered in very tiny spinules (spine-like hairs) which create this superhydrophobic surface and water droplets literally leap off under their own power. We are currently exploring this phenomena for diverse uses such as water collecting devices to self-propelled micro machines and rotors” explained Dr Watson.

“By automatically keeping itself dry, we assume the gecko avoids potentially harmful microbes and fungi breeding on its skin. We’ve recently tested the surface with droplets of red wine, blood, soy sauce and other common liquids and it resists all of them.” Watson continued.

They discovered that the skin is not only superhydrophobic, but it also self-cleans and kills bacteria on contact – all while remaining a suitable surface for human stem cell growth.

“The development of water-repelling, self-cleaning, anti-bacterial and biocompatible coatings is of great interest from practical, commercial and scientific perspectives worldwide.” says Watson. “Its uses could include medical and dental implants and other medical equipment such as catheters, syringes, contact lenses and wound-healing architectures. Then there could be self-cleaning indoor and outdoor surfaces, marine structures and membranes used in industrial applications, such as water filters.”

Dr Jolanta Watson, the report’s co-author, explains that the couple’s interest in science, including the work they have done on the nanostructure of gecko skin and insect wings, comes from an intense curiosity about how things work in nature. “So far we’ve only looked at the skin of one species of gecko and there are hundreds out there, so who knows what else we might discover?” Watson adds.