Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above. ✖
Want to listen to this article for FREE?
Complete the form below to unlock access to ALL audio articles.
Read time: 3 minutes
A species of spider lives its entire life underwater, despite having lungs that can only breathe atmospheric oxygen. How does it do it? This spider, known as the Argyroneta aquatica, has millions of rough, water-repellent hairs that trap air around its body, creating an oxygen reservoir and acting as a barrier between the spider’s lungs and the water.
This thin layer of air is called a plastron and for decades, material scientists have been trying to harness its protective effects. Doing so could lead to underwater superhydrophobic surfaces able to prevent corrosion, bacterial growth, the adhesion of marine organisms, chemical fouling, and other deleterious effects of liquid on surfaces. But plastrons have proved highly unstable under water, keeping surfaces dry for only a matter of hours in the lab.
Want more breaking news?
Subscribe to Technology Networks’ daily newsletter, delivering breaking science news straight to your inbox every day.
Now, a team of researchers led by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, and Aalto University in Finland have developed a superhydrophobic surface with a stable plastron that can last for months under water. The team’s general strategy to create long-lasting underwater superhydrophobic surfaces, which repel blood and drastically reduce or prevent the adhesion of bacterial and marine organisms such as barnacles and mussels, opens a range of applications in biomedicine and industry.