It is a humble Australian reptile boasting a special talent. Biologists have discovered that the skin of the box-patterned gecko, which hails from Western Queensland, can repel water.
They think there is a lot of potential, if the structure can be replicated.
The skin is also self-cleaning, resists dirt and bacteria – and is compatible with human cells.
“Because it can grow, can accept human skin cells or cells in general, you can sort of envisage them as really, really, great coatings on implants,” explained Jolanta Watson, from the University of the Sunshine Coast.
“It’s like having soda water in your glass and the bubbles effervescing, essentially. I thought, wow, that’s very cool, it’s a gecko, ‘geckovesence.’”
Tiny bumps covered in miniscule hairs on the gecko’s skin collect water and push it away. It is this process that makes it hard for bacteria to survive.
Researchers are excited about possible industrial, scientific and medical uses.
“It’s probably also very useful for us if we could harness that kind of surface, because we could use it on operating tables, and bandages,” said Professor Lin Schwarzkopf, from James Cook University.
Researchers are working on a product with the same ability as gecko skin – a material that can repel water, coffee and even red wine.
There could be implications for durable water repellent coatings and textiles.
With more funding, it is hoped gecko-inspired products will make it onto the market soon.