Fighting Disease, Wall by Wall
A new bio-inspired surface that denies a foothold to cockroaches and ants joins other recent materials advances aimed at reducing pest-borne disease worldwide.
The latest technology comes from the Plant Biomechanics Group of the University of Freiburg, where researchers have been studying the microstructure, cell form and surface chemisty of plants and synthetic resins to see which ones give insects the best—and worst—traction.
The team conducted adhesion experiments in which Colorado potato beetles walked across differently structured plant surfaces and replicas made of synthetic resins. A highly sensitive sensor measured the beetles' traction forces on various surfaces.
The conclusion: Wavy or strongly curved cells increased the pests' adhesive powers, while microstructures composed of wax crystals or cuticular folds—tiny folds in the cuticle, or protective layer of a leaf surface—reduced them.
Eventually, the team determined specific dimensions of cuticular folds that created "the perfect anti-adhesion surface" and kept the beetle from digging in its feet, Speck said in a university research announcement.
The team also found that the surface's microstructure had a stronger effect on the beetle's footing than the cell form or the surface chemistry (specifically, surface wettability).
The next step, the team says: adjusting the artificial surfaces to the hair structure of different groups of insects.
Keeping Pests Out
The researchers say their surfaces could be used to line the ventilation pipes of cockroach- and insect-infested air conditioners or applied to facades and window frames to prevent walking insects from invading the home.
|Dr. Pilar Mateo Herrero|
In field trials in Bolivia, Inesfly paint eradicated disease-carrying insects from a village.
“This aspect is particularly important in the tropics,” says Speck.
Coating Away Malaria
The new material is part of a recent wave of projects aimed at decreasing the incidence of deadly pest-borne illness, which remains a scourge in many areas of the world.
In April, Coral Dulux Ghana rolled out an insect-killing paint in malaria-ravaged Ghana. Artilin Vinymat Ultra Paint is manufactured by France-based Artilin and has been approved by European laboratories and government ministries.
The interior wall and ceiling coating is non-toxic and safe for human and pets but contains insecticide and acaricide that kills flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, dust mites and termites and prevents spider webs for "at least two years," according to Coral Dulux.
Hope in Latin America
Meanwhile, a Spanish company is getting ready to bring its insecticide-laced coating to market.
The coating, called Inesfly, was developed by Dr. Pilar Mateo Herrero, a Spanish chemist who personally field-tested the product in a Bolivian village infested with vinchuca, a blood-sucking parasite that carries Chagas disease. The incurable disease is known as the "AIDS of the poor."
Inesfly paint contain a polymer chain that microencapsulates one or more insecticidal active ingredients and insect growth regulators in an Insecticide Polymeric Microcapsule.
Inesfly paints are formulated with a polymer chain that microencapsulates one or more insecticidal active ingreients and insect growth regulators. The water-based paint kills insects before they reach adulthood, the developers say.
Reports say the coating's slow-release mechanism kills insects up to one meter away from the painted interior or exterior surface.
Since the news about Inesfly was reported in mid-2012, Inesfly Corp. has announced that it is building a factory to produce the paint according to World Health Organization guidelines and expects to bring the coating to market in 2014.
Editor's Note: This article was updated at 10:07 a.m. ET Nov. 6 to correct the parent company of Artilin Vinymat Ultra Insecticide Paint. Artilin is produced by CIN Coatings and is not an AkzoNobel brand. Artlin was launched in Ghana by M&K Ghana Ltd., which is also that nation's sole distributor of several AkzoNobel brands. D+D News regrets the error.