In a study completed for her PhD, Wageningen University student Aurélie Féat investigated bio-coatings which can be applied to building structures, rendering the surface slippery to obstruct the path of small insects.
The coatings were tested via an experiment on ants.
Jasper van der Gucht, a professor of Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter who collaborated with Feat on her research, says that prior completed research showed that insects can scale walls by releasing a fluid that works in the same manner as glue and allows them to adhere to the surface or by clinging with their claws.
In her research, Feat experimented with paints that would render the surface slippery and disable their footholds. The best answer, she found, came in the form of a poorly mixed paint.
Paint, van der Guacht said, is a complex intermingling of pigments, binders and polymers.
When mixed poorly, pigment particles project forth from the surface, sticking to the ant’s feet and rendering ineffective the gluey fluid on their feet.
Another solution entailed sizable particles, which rendered the surface raw and inspired the formation of pores that absorb the ant’s sticky fluid.
The findings were supported by paint manufacturer Akzo Nobel, which is examining alternatives to toxic insecticides to reduce building damage elicited by insects.
While admitting that commercial application of prospective products remains a slight possibility, Feat says that the benefits could be major.
As the situation exists, she says that insect-caused building damage is estimated to stand between $US2 billion and $US40 billion annually.