Thesis subject

Fluid contribution to insect adhesion

Insects use specialized adhesive pads to stick to surfaces when climbing, landing, perching, and mating. These pads have been observed to secrete oily fluids that are hypothesized to enhance adhesion. However, direct evidence supporting this claim is still missing. Does surface tension contribute to adhesion? Do the fluids help keep the pads clean from contaminants?

Insect adhesion has interested researchers for decades, and recently, due to advances in micro-fabrication, synthetic systems that function like insect adhesive pads have been developed. Inspired by observations of biological systems, these synthetic systems have replicated the performance of biological adhesives through the design and optimization of biomimetic micro- and nano-structures. While the micro- and nano-structures of biological adhesive systems have been extensively characterized, there are still many open questions concerning the role of fluid secretion during adhesion.

In this project, we aim to directly measure the contribution of such fluids to the overall adhesive performance of insects. Additionally, we will investigate their influence on the removal of contaminants in the form of microparticles. The student will gain experience working with both live insects and synthetic micro-fabricated devices. Direct surface tension measurements will be conducted using a high-precision pressure sensor normally used for cellular microbiology. Collaborations may be pursued with Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter (WUR) and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (Stuttgart, Germany) for micro-fabrication of replicas of the insect adhesive pads.

Examiner: Prof. Dr. Ir. Johan L. van Leeuwen
Supervisors: Guillermo Amador
Contact: Guillermo Amador (via contact form)
Begin date: 10/02/2020 (variable)
End date: 01/01/2222 (variable)
Credits: 36 ECTS (variable)
For: MSc Biology / Animal Sciences
Requirements: Successful completion of Functional Zoology (EZO 30806)
Used skills: Rearing and working with live insects. Measuring fluid pressures with micro-pipettes. Measuring adhesive forces on synthetic micro-structures using strain gauges