UOW researchers look into fly eyes

Research into a fly's eye has resulted in the creation of a new anti-fog coating.
Research into a fly's eye has resulted in the creation of a new anti-fog coating.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong have looked deep into the eyes of the common house fly to find out how the insects see clearly in moist environments without fogging up and how bespectacled humans might do the same.

Seen under high-powered microscopes, the fly's eye is made up of thousands of tiny hexagon-type shapes, containing still more - even tinier - hexagons.

Researchers from UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials have created a new anti-fog coating based on this structure, for potential use on windows that would never need cleaning, and on glasses that wouldn't fog up at the opening of a steaming dishwasher.

Associate Professor Jung Ho Kim said about 10 flies were used in the work, carried out at the Innovation Campus with visiting Chinese colleagues.

"We know that fly eyes can remain functional and uncontaminated in extremely dusty and moist environments and we wondered why," he said. "We wanted to examine what the unique surface properties of a fly's eye were that allowed it to have these anti-contamination and anti-fogging characteristics."

Researchers used transition metal zinc oxide - because it tends to have a hexagonal shape - to assemble small structures mimicking that of the fly's eye.

Their research was published in the journal Small.

It read: "We suspect that these well-ordered, close packed, hierarchical hexagonal nanostructures are one of the origins of the superior superhydrophobicity and anti-fogging properties of the green bottle fly eyes."

Prof Kim said work on the material was continuing.

"As someone who wears spectacles and doesn't enjoy cleaning my windows at home, I hope that further work can be done on these applications sooner rather than later."


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