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The structure of cicada wings can kill bacteria on contact

first_imgWe all know that there is both good and bad bacteria, and there are many ways to take down the bad guys. Normally, we resort to applying some sort of material to ourselves — soap, medicine, antibacterial lotion, and so on. Now, though, scientists have discovered a new way to kill bacteria, and it doesn’t involve some sort of third-party material. The very structure of cicada wings traps bacteria, and slowly rips it apart.At a microscopic level, the clanger cicada’s wing contains many tiny spikes. So, when some bacteria gets on the wing, the little guys essentially get impaled, then slowly slide down the spikes, being ripped apart until they die. The bacteria doesn’t instantly become impaled, though, as if it fell from a high ledge and landed square on a pole; it lands, and its own weight eventually pulls it down on to the spike, impaling it. As it slides, its skin becomes pulled apart, stretching the bacteria until it does, reminding us of a particular video game.However, the scientists tested what they felt appeared to be happening. In a microwave, they cooked various bacteria at different degrees, which in turn made some bacteria skin more elastic than other skin. The bacteria with the more elastic skin succumbed to the slow, skin-being-ripped-apart death, while the bacteria with the harder skin did not. This confirmed that the cicada wing spikes are, in fact, killing bacteria.This marks the first time scientists have seen the biomaterial of a living organism destroy bacteria. The discovery is relatively new, but in time, could pave the way for various materials that could protect surfaces from bacteria; perhaps some kind of glove, or a coating for toilet flushers. Wherever this discovery ends up, hopefully we’ll be killing bacteria with spikes sometime soon.last_img read more