The beetles are impressive insects, but of all types, the African one has attracted researcher’s attention based on how its body manages water, in an intelligent way.
Water and ice are dependent on each other, and for the aircraft wings, these could pose serious problems at altitudes above 4000 meters. In this situation, the scientists have inspired from the African beetle, especially the one from the Namib Desert. This one survives the immense heat using a very clever method to collect water on its shell.
The beetle has a series of small bumps which, during the night or morning, helps him create dew drops. Under these there is a smooth and waterproof surface, guiding the water droplets directly to the beetle’s mouth so that it remains hydrated all day.
Inspired by the remarkable insect, the exotic materials researchers from Virginia Tech, have managed to build a combination of permeable and impermeable materials, so they could control the areas where the water must freeze.
They managed to build a dot pattern on a larger hydrophobic material surface, which, when in contact with water, attracts it into separate and well-defined droplets. The large distance between them prevents bonding, helping them to evaporate quickly.
They also found that the distance between the dots dictates how fast they will freeze. The closer they are, the faster the water accumulates and freezes, and the more distant they are, the water will evaporate faster and the ice won’t accumulate again.
These findings are essential for future aircraft because the defrost of an airplane costs a lot of electricity and fuel for a company, and such a “natural” method could help conserve these resources.