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Insect wings beat superbugs

Nanoscale spikes on dragonfly wings are inspiring materials that kill bacteria, including deadly antibiotic-resistant golden staph (Staphylococcus aureus).

Wandering percher dragonfly, Diplacodes bipunctata. Credit: Jean, via Encyclopedia of Life (CC BY-NC)

Elena Ivanova and her fellow researchers at Swinburne University of Technology were studying self-cleaning surfaces in nature when they discovered bacteria being killed on the wings of the clanger cicada, Psaltoda claripennis, a species mostly found in Queensland.

The secret seemed to lie in millions of tiny rounded spikes, or nanopillars, each a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

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