Waterproof Materials to be Developed from the Properties of Lizard Skin - News Item

A team of Australian scientists at James Cook University are looking at ways of creating waterproof materials based on the properties found in lizard skin.

Work has begun on the project, which is based upon copying components of the skin of a variety of gecko species as well as the thorny devil (Moloch horridus).

Project leader Dr Lin Schwarzkopf from JCU's School of Tropical Biology said lizard skin has great potential for farmers, shipping, information technology and the defence force.

"Thorny devil skin is very water-receptive - a thorny devil can sit in a puddle of water and liquid seeps across its skin, over its body surface and into its mouth," Dr Schwarzkopf said.

"The skin of geckos is so water resistant that any liquid that comes into contact with their skin will simply slide off," she said.

"We see great potential for this to be used for boats, camping, electronic materials and irrigation," Dr Schwarzkopf said.

She explained that materials based around the thorny devil skin could help the army or campers to extract water from sand, or it could be used like a siphon by farmers for irrigation to transfer water from one place to another.

She said materials mimicking gecko skin could be used at the bottom of boats in replacement of chemical anti-fouling products or as a covering over electronic products that aren't waterproof.

Fellow JCU scientists Rocky de Nys, Simon Robson and Jong Leng Liow, join Dr Schwarzkopf in trying to use biommetic principles to copy the skin properties of these lizards.

For now they are trying to understand how the skin works, then if more funding is secured, they will begin looking at creating materials based on the principles of lizard skin.

The initial stages of the project have been made possible thanks to $25,000 from a JCU Program Grant.


Posted July 21st, 2005


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