We often see an animal or plant with remarkable abilities or properties that are not obvious how they work. One of those is the mystery of cicada wings and raindrops.
Scientists studying cicadas have noticed that their wings repel water and have antimicrobial properties. Every past attempt to understand how this works has destroyed the wing before finding the answer. However, it did appear that there were layers to the wing.
Scientific American (September 2020, page 21) describes a new method of analysis called microwave-assisted extraction. Using that method on cicada wings, scientists at Sandia National Laboratories peeled back the outer layer revealing a fantastic design.
Under the outer chemical layers, cicada wings have structures called nanopillars. When scientists removed the nanopillars’ chemical layers, they became shorter and bent towards each other, making the wing structure so close that water could not penetrate it. The chemical layers on top of the nanopillars kill microbes.
Marianne Alleyne, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was the study’s senior author. She said this knowledge will help scientists understand how to use chemicals and structure to engineer new products. “We can design new materials more rationally, making choices about the structure and chemistry based on what we have observed in nature,” Alleyne said. This is one more example of how science can copy nature to give us new products.
Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The mystery of cicada wings and raindrops is another example to verify that statement and show us ways to improve our lives here on Earth.
You can read more about the research project HERE.
What is the best animal eye? Engineers at the University of Illinois have been researching that question. They have now built the world’s best camera by copying that animal. Their new camera could help military drones see camouflaged or shadowed targets. Their discovery also will allow surgeons to perform many kinds of operations more accurately. They have learned all this from the animal which possesses the best eye known to science. The best animal eye belongs to a small creature known as the mantis shrimp. Here are some of the ways the mantis shrimp’s eyes are superior to all others:
The mantis shrimp eye can sense polarized light which has waves that undulate in one plane. Light reflecting off of a surface is always polarized. This ability allows the mantis shrimp to see objects that would otherwise be invisible because of blending into the background.
A mantis shrimp’s eyes are constructed so that each pixel has a rhabdom which is a rodlike structure made of light receptors. The rhabdoms have threadlike structures called microvilli alternately stacked at right angles. That means the shrimp has cells in the two hemispheres of the eye which are tilted 45 degrees to each other allowing their eyes to detect four polarization directions.
The eye of the mantis shrimp can detect an extensive range of light intensities of light to dark known as the dynamic range. This means that they can see clearly even when there is a very bright area next to a very dark area.
The mantis shrimp is the only animal that can sense a full spectrum of colors and can see the polarization of each color. That means that when there is a complicated background, the animal can still get a clear image.
Electrical and computer engineer Victor Gruev and his research team have already made a camera based on the best animal eye. It has a dynamic range which is about 10,000 times higher than today’s commercial cameras. Gruev and the team are working on a commercial version of their camera. Produced in bulk quantities the improved sensors would cost only $10 each.