Carnivorous plant inspires protective coatings

by Julia Bradley on January 10, 2014

A plant that devours insects has inspired a new generation of protective coatings that can repel liquids and pollutants.

The pitcher plant, as it is known, boasts a unique funnel-like structure with a near-frictionless surface that allows it to trap its prey.

Its alluring smell of sweet nectar is too attractive for most insects to resist.

Once inside, the “pitcher” victims cannot escape the waxy sides – a locked in surface layer of lubricant that cannot be penetrated and contaminated by other substances.

The insects eventually fall into a liquid and drown before they are digested into a “soup” from which the glands absorb nutrients.

Now researchers at Harvard University in the United States have mimicked the plant’s design to develop a multi-stage coating process to produce a similar transparent covering. It can be applied to almost any object, large or small.

Repellent coatings are used to combat graffiti and keep medical instruments and electrical components clean.

They can even prevent ice build-up on aircraft wings and fouling of ship hulls, as well as assist the efficient transportation of crude oil and other products by pipeline.

The pitcher plant inspired development reached the finals of this year’s Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) awards in the UK, which recognises excellence and innovation in the chemical industries worldwide.

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Julia Bradley

Research Assistant at Interflora - interested in all things PR!

Post category: News, Plants  

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