Researchers reveal Eucalypt’s nano properties

October 31, 2011

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Murdoch University nano scientists have discovered more about the unique self-cleaning and water-repellent properties of a eucalyptus plant native to south west WA which could make it a gold mine for new nanotechnology applications.

The Mottlecah, which is also known as The Rose of the West for its large spectacular flowers, has silvery leaves which are covered in a wax which produces nano-sized bumps and pillars. This causes water to form droplets that roll over the surface of the leaves and fall towards the root system of the plant, picking up any dirt along the way.

These properties, which are known as superhydrophobic and self-cleaning, are similar to the lotus plant’s which has inspired a range of self-cleaning and anti-bacterial technologies currently being developed.

Dr Gerrard Eddy Jai Poinern and his team at the Murdoch Applied Nanotechnology Research Group say their discovery has the potential to be applied in a variety of ways, from so-called lab-on-a-chip settings in medical research, to the treatment of ships’ hulls to help prevent the build up of harmful microorganisms, plants and animals.

“I had noticed these incredible plants on the Murdoch campus because of the unusual appearance of their leaves,” said Dr Poinern, who is based at the School of Engineering and Energy. “They made me wonder whether the plant had superhydrophobic properties and so began our research investigation.

“One of the experiments we carried out was to coat the leaf with carbon black toner from a laser printer cartridge and then observe how the rolling drops of water were able to completely clean the surface of the leaf.

“This was because the surface features formed by this Eucalyptus’ waxes gave the leaves remarkable wetting and self-cleaning properties. We believe this enhances the plant’s survival in an arid climate because it is able to source and effectively manage its water usage through channelling any water to its roots.

“In this way the Mottlecah is unusual because most superhydrophobic plants are usually found in aquatic settings.”

Dr Poinern and his team also extracted waxes from the leaves and found that they were capable of self-reassembly. When coated on laboratory glass slides, the wax formed features which mimicked the complex three-dimensional geometry of the nano-sized bumps and pillars found on the original leaf surface, making the slide superhydrophobic.

“It was fairly easy and inexpensive to extract the wax from the leaves and yet the wax still had these remarkable qualities,” said Dr Poinern. “When the tested glass slides were placed horizontally onto a water surface, the added buoyancy support of the wax meant that it was able to carry a greater load than the uncoated slides.

“In microfluidic devices used in advanced medical research and disease testing, such coatings could help to maintain the sterility of devices which need to be used over and over again.

“In fact there are a number of potential applications and we are sure there are other WA native plants which have similar properties. We hope to continue our research to find out more about these properties and how they can be fully utilised.”

Comments (6 responses)

Eucalypt’s nano properties November 5, 2011

[...] has inspired a range of self-cleaning and anti-bacterial technologies currently being developed. http://media.murdoch.edu.au/researchers-reveal-eucalypt%E2%80%99s-nano-properties Posted in [...]

Kevin November 5, 2011

What a champ!

Manuel Zubiaur November 6, 2011

I find the results of that research an excelent new. Actually I have problems with the drying with the wood which I try to use the timber to be used in the furniture and flooring poupouses. The mentioned wood features a high surface evaporation, thus generating high
moisture gradients, early shrinkage at surface level, along with below P.S.F. drying related tensile, which, in turn,
brings about surface and internal checks. When collapse turns to be severe, and because of timber cell wall
mechanical strength, both surface and internal checks show up. I have found useful for that pourpouse the reserchs made in Galicia (Spain) and Bio Bio University (Chile).

Resolved those problems your finding maybe will add the aplication with the end products maintenance, mainly with the fruniture and flooring uses. Congratulations

Manuel Zubiaur November 6, 2011

I am sorry to write regarding with my problems with the Eucalyptus Globulus. I have a plantatios of more than 40 years. I am a person of more than 70 years old and my mother lenguage is Spanish and that is why my Enlish is not fluenty. I woud like to congratulate againg your effort and findings, the references of the researchs made for the other mentioned institutions do not rest nothing yourt efforts which are in the other fields to make more useful the Eucalyptus Globulus which is world planted. Thankyou.

Manuel Zubiaur November 6, 2011

Caballeros:
¡Quisiera reiterarles mis felicitaciones por el logro alcanzado en sus investigaciones! Por supuesto que las aplicaciones que tendrá su descubrimiento abre un nuevos caminos en otros campos de la ciencia. Especialmente en la medicina, en el cuidado de pacientes que tengan quemaduras que para los médicos es una ardua tarea. Pero también en el desarrollo aseptico de productos que esten destinados al mantenimiento de los muebles y los pisos de las viviendas en el que se intenta el uso del Eucalypto Globulos. Gracias por su contribución al desarrollo de mejores condiciones de vida de la humanidad. Ciertamente es un hito. Muchas gracias.

Solomatin November 6, 2012

The question is why tucaliptus leaf wax has hydrofobious property. If we'd get this idea we could solute many problem with icing and may be ice desruction as well

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