Scientists have known for a while that dragonfly wings are composed of nanopillars, which are small, spike-like pillars on the surface of the wings.
However, a new study in ASC Applied Materials & Interfaces found that these nanopillars play a role in killing bacteria by physically ripping them apart. The pillars are of varying sizes and look similar to what scientists have referred to as a bed of nails.
However, instead of puncturing the bacterial membrane, as researchers previously thought, the new study found that the bacteria secrete a substance that traps them in the pillars.
When the bacteria try to move, the force of their adhesion to the nanopillars tears them apart, spilling out their contents and killing the bacteria.
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American Council on Science and Health: Why Dragonfly Wings Kill Bacteria
Scientific American: Insect Wings Shred Bacteria to Pieces