September 23, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Lotus Glass Repels Water, Dirt, Bacteria

Imagine never having to wash your windows again.  That would be a huge boon not only for window washers on skyscrapers, but for astronauts on the space shuttle or space station.  It may become a reality, thanks to the lotus plant.
    Science Daily reported on work by a company in Atlanta that has developed a transparent coating for glass that renders it impervious to dirt and water.  The secret: imitating the surface of a lotus leaf, which “contains innumerable tiny spikes that greatly reduce the area on which water and dirt can attach.”  NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is taking a keen interest in this technology, because it can “prevent dirt from accumulating on the surfaces of spacesuits, scientific instruments, robotic rovers, solar array panels and other hardware used to gather scientific data or carry out exploratory activities on other objects in the solar system.”  The latest work seeks to manufacture the material such that it can withstand the harsh space environment.
    For us earthlings, the applications of lotus-leaf surface coatings to everyday objects – eyeglasses, windshields, camera lenses and windows – promises a low-maintenance, clear view through the looking glass.  And there’s an extra benefit.  The material also repels bacteria.  Think of how hospitals could stay more hygienic with lotus-like surfaces on walls, windows and equipment.
    For previous stories on the properties of the lotus leaf, see 10/17/2006, 01/18/2005 and 10/27/2004.

This all began when someone looked at lotus leaves in the rain and noticed how the water beads up and runs off, leaving a clean surface.  Look around at nature and notice what other technologies have already been designed and could be applied to human needs. (You may want to get an early start if you manufacture windshield wipers.)  There’s a bright future in biomimetics, no thanks to Darwin. 

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Biomimetics

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