Wettability of natural superhydrophobic surfaces.Adv Colloid Interface Sci. 2014 Aug; 210:58-64.AC
Since the description of the 'Lotus Effect' by Barthlott and Neinhuis in 1997, the existence of superhydrophobic surfaces in the natural world has become common knowledge. Superhydrophobicity is associated with a number of possible evolutionary benefits that may be bestowed upon an organism, ranging from the ease of dewetting of their surfaces and therefore prevention of encumbrance by water droplets, self-cleaning and removal of particulates and potential pathogens, and even to antimicrobial activity. The superhydrophobic properties of natural surfaces have been attributed to the presence of hierarchical microscale (>1 μm) and nanoscale (typically below 200 nm) structures on the surface, and as a result, the generation of topographical hierarchy is usually considered of high importance in the fabrication of synthetic superhydrophobic surfaces. When one surveys the breadth of data available on naturally existing superhydrophobic surfaces, however, it can be observed that topographical hierarchy is not present on all naturally superhydrophobic surfaces; in fact, the only universal feature of these surfaces is the presence of a sophisticated nanoscale structure. Additionally, several natural surfaces, e.g. those present on rose petals and gecko feet, display high water contact angles and high adhesion of droplets, due to the pinning effect. These surfaces are not truly superhydrophobic, and lack significant degrees of nanoscale roughness. Here, we discuss the phenomena of superhydrophobicity and pseudo-superhydrophobicity in nature, and present an argument that while hierarchical surface roughness may aid in the stability of the superhydrophobic effect, it is nanoscale surface architecture alone that is the true determinant of superhydrophobicity.