Spiders as a Role Model for JKU Researchers

A new € 3 million project has started at the JKU. The international team aims to imitate nanostructures found on spider legs.

Kick-off des Projekts "BioCombs4Nanofibers".
Kick-off des Projekts "BioCombs4Nanofibers".

The EU project "BioCombs4Nanofibers" was officially launched atop the new JKU landmark, the Somnium. Project coordinators Johannes Heitz (Institute for Applied Physics) and Werner Baumgartner (Director of the Institute for Medical and Biomechatronics) were inspired by true nanofiber experts: cribellate spiders. In contrast to ecribellate spiders (spiders that apply droplets of glue to their threads in order to catch prey), cribellate spiders wrap their threads in a sticky wool (courtesy of Van der Waals forces) made of nanofibres. Researchers have observed that the spider do not stick to the wool themselves as they have a repellent nanostructure on the combs of the spiders’ hind legs and this helps them process the nanowool. Heitz remarked: "Our project aims to transfer these structures to technical surfaces."

The start of the project was celebrated with opening remarks by Alberta Bonanni, JKU Vice-Rector for Research, project coordinator Johannes Heitz, and all 6 partners from 5 European countries. The Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen is also involved in the project and, in cooperation with the Institute of Medical and Biomechatronics, has discovered the anti-adhesion effect of the spider legs and published the findings as a hypothesis. Subsequent experiments will focus on artificially produced nanostructures to underpin the findings.

With the help of high-resolution optical 3D printing processes, one of the first steps at the JKU is to generate individual structures for initial studies. Heitz is optimistic about the future and added: "The first set of experiments look very promising."