Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.
This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced.
Animals are always fascinating and there are new things to discover about the animal kingdom. Animals do not fail to please the humans with their extraordinary features and peculiarities. The whole animal kingdom boasts of many impressive species, right from arching giraffe necks to spoon-shaped bird beaks to gigantic beetle claws. Some animals seem to be too evolved and some less. But, there are a few ways, in which animals use nanotechnology in an awesome way. Here is the list of those 7 ways:
1 – Invisible Eyes
Zooming in to an insect’s compound eye such as that of the Robber Fly, you will be amazed to see that it is studded with an array of nanoscale protuberances known as the corneal nipples. These tiny bumps that range from anywhere between 50 to 300 nanometers, are responsible to help the insect in camouflaging. They do this, by breaking up the cornea’s even surface, and cutting down the glare that reflects off the eye, which could potentially alert a predator to the bug’s presence.
The nanoscale pattern on Moth eye has inspired the new anti-reflective coating for solar cells. The German scientists in 2010, discovered another functions of the corneal nipples, which is they help keep pollen grains, dust particles, and other microscopic particles out of the insects’ eyes.
2 – Dazzling Wings
According to researchers, the nanostructures are responsible for the shimmering colors in a butterfly’s wings. Apparently, the scales on a butterfly’s wings are patterned with nanoscale channels, ridges, and cavities made of a protein called chitin. The nanostructures are shaped so that they physically bend and scatter light in different directions that enter your eyes, which is why, it makes the colour change when changing the viewing angle.
The heat in the form of radiations make the chitin nanostructures expand and change their shapes, which gives rise to the colour display. Using this technology, the hypersensitive thermal imaging sensors, useful for night vision, are being worked upon by the researchers. They are apparently coating the wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly with carbon nanotubes that magnify the effect. This makes the insect a sensor, which changes color when its temperature changes a mere 1/25th of a degree.
3 – Flashy Feathers
Even birds use nanotechnology for cosmetic purpose. The little penguin Eudyptula minor, in Australia and New Zealand, sports a tuxedo of dark blue feathers instead of the more traditional black. At the University of Akron in Ohio, the scientists discovered using X-Ray imaging and other techniques that penguins produce the blue color with bundles of parallel nanofibers, like handfuls of uncooked spaghetti, that scatter light so as to produce the rich blue. The fibres that are about 180 nano meters wide, are made of a protein similar to the one in human hair, Beta Keratin. Some fibres were also found that were made of collagen and not keratin.
4 – Solar Powered Bugs
Most of the wasps are active in the mornings and slow down as the sun’s heat is oppressive, but not the oriental hornets, who build nests underground, their workers dig more in more sunlight. According to researchers, this is because nanostructures in the insect’s exoskeleton form a kind of solar cell, which harvests light energy.
Apparently in the abdomen section of the Hornet, there are grooves of about 160 nanometers high, that trap the light and bounce to the cuticle. Also, the yellow sections absorb light, which are interlocking protrusions about 50 nanometers high. Researchers show that xanthoperin can be used to convert light into electricity, the pigment that gives it its yellow color. All this also explains why they’re busiest when it’s sunniest.
5 – Slippery Skin
The snakes such as the Ball Pythons, slither so smoothly but you can’t imagine how complex interaction of muscle movement and small-scale physics is involved. The scales on a snake’s belly are covered in minuscule hair called microfibrils that are around 400 nanometers wide or less, pointing towards the tail and their ends are raised about 200 nanometers off the skin, helping the snake in a smooth glide. Also, the extra friction helps prevent sideways slipping, when on an inclined surface.
6 – Nanotech Toes
Tokay gecko, in order to stick itself to trees, walls, windows, and even ceilings, uses nanotechnology, as it has its feet covered in microscopic hair, called setae that further branch into thousands of smaller hair with paddle-shaped ends, called spatulae, 200 nanometers wide at the tip. The extra surface area of the spatulae maximizes the effect of van der Waals forces that helps it hang its whole weight from a single toe, even on a sheer piece of glass.
Inspired by this, the researchers carbon nanotubes to create super-sticky tapes, glues, and even a wall-climbing robots.
7 – Super Tough Silk
Spider silks are claimed to be stronger than steel that can withstand gusts of wind and catch hurtling insects without falling to pieces. Thin crystal proteins only nanometers wide, stacked together like pancakes, strengthen the silks. On an atomic level the layers are joined by Hydrogen bonds that pull apart and reform, allowing the silk to stretch and flex under pressure.
The Italian scientists claimed to have found the stretchiest silk in the egg sac of the European cave spider, Meta menardi.