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Thursday, 19 September 2019
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Raw materials & technologies, Technologies, Functional coatings

Guillemot eggshells exhibit hydrophobic nano-structures

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Industry could mimick self-cleaning structures that prevent eggs from falling and protect them from salt exposure.

Guillemots are famous for the egg shapes -- when knocked or rocked, they go around in a perfect circle on their own axis, so they don't roll off the cliff

Source: Steven Portugal
Guillemots are famous for the egg shapes -- when knocked or rocked, they go around in a perfect circle on their own axis, so they don't roll off th...

Unique nano-structures on guillemot eggshells enable guillemots to survive precarious habitats, on exposed cliffs with no nest. A new study shows how these structures act as self-cleaning guardians of the eggs, preventing them from falling and protecting them from salt and guano exposure.

The team of researchers headed by Dr Steven Portugal (Royal Veterinary College, University of London) discovered the nano-scale cone-like structures. Portugal: "This work was started by accident. A water spillage over an egg collection revealed how differently water droplets acted on the guillemot eggshells in comparison to other species. The water droplets stayed as a sphere on the eggs, typically an indication of a hydrophobic surface.”

Comparative study reveals uniqueness of structures

The researchers identified that these structures are unique to guillemot eggshells in a comparative study of over 400 species in total, including those nesting in similar environments, and those closely related to the guillemots.

They performed engineering tests on the eggshells and found that those of the guillemot have several unique proprieties due to these nano-structures: higher water contact angle (which means they were more hydrophobic), rougher surface (which helps prevent the egg from falling off the cliff or the parents feet) and higher rate of gaseous exchange (which helps them cope with the high salt content from the sea spray).

Other analogous hydrophobic nano-structures have been identified in the lotus leaf, and have been mimicked in industry. The researchers expect this finding will also have important uses in the emerging field of biomimetics.

The study was presented at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting in Valencia on July 5.

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