Engineered wettability of the shell sculpture of land snails

Summary

Investigation of the function of the roughness and chemistry of snail shell surface for the collection of atmospheric water by the snail.

Supervisor(s)

Dr Chiara Neto

Research Location

School of Chemistry

Program Type

PHD

Synopsis

The surface structure of the shell of snails living in arid regions of South Australia has evolved to cope with extreme drought. In this project we investigate how nature has engineered the roughness and chemistry of the shell surface to optimise water collection by the snail, a natural engineering strategy that seems to be tailored to the particular microclimate in which the snails live, much like in the case of the wettability of plant leaves and insect wings. The study could provide an answer on the function of surface sculpturing in snail shells, and may provide biomimetic clues for the engineering of wettability in technological applications such as collection of water in arid environments.

  1. Thickett, SC; Neto, C and Harris, AT. Biomimetic surface coatings for atmospheric water capture prepared by dewetting of polymer films. Advanced Materials, 23 (32), 3718-3722, 2011. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201100290

Additional Information

The project primarily involves performing experiments using a wide range of surface characterisation techniques such as optical and atomic force microscopy (AFM), contact angle goniometry, ellipsometry, and grazing angle FTIR. The modification of solid surfaces using advanced surface structuring techniques will be performed both in the lab and through external collaborations. Interested students should source their own scholarship, as detailed on the University’s website.

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Keywords

Physical chemistry, surface and materials science, interfaces, biomimetic, water collection, nanostructured coatings, superhydrophilic surfaces, micro-patterning, wettability.

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1588

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