Collembola cuticles and the three-phase line tension
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBeilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. 2017, 8 (1), 1714-1722. 10.3762/bjnano.8.172
The cuticles of most springtails (Collembola) are superhydrophobic, but the mechanism has not been described in detail. Previous studies have suggested that overhanging surface structures play an important role, but such structures are not a universal trait among springtails with superhydrophobic cuticles. A novel wetting experiment with a fluorescent dye revealed the extent of wetting on exposed surface structures. Using simple wetting models to describe the composite wetting of the cuticular surface structures results in underestimating the contact angles of water. Including the three-phase line tension allows for a prediction of contact angles in the observed range. The discrepancy between the contact angle predicted by simple models and those observed is especially large in the springtail Cryptopygus clavatus which changes, seasonally, from superhydrophobic to wetting without a large change in surface structure; C. clavatus does not have overhanging surface structures. This large change in observed contact angles can be explained with a modest change of the three-phase line tension.