Multifunctionality of insect cuticle: friction and optics

Insects did it first! Inspired by beetle iridescence and a scientist who has studied them (Ainsley Seago), the ABC Lab, the INHS Insect Collection, and the Materials Tribology Lab teamed up to study the multifunctionality of insect cuticle. Back down the evolutionary tree of beetles, some species developed iridescent cuticle, and others did not. This iridescence could be related to interactions with other insects or predators, or it could … be combined in functionality due to the features which give rise to the iridescence. And in fact it is! The size and shape of the features, or “microsculptures,” on the beetle cuticle also change the friction of its exterior against fibrous surfaces, both wet and dry, when compared to species that do not have iridescence. You won’t believe the variety of diffraction gratings we found! The main conclusion is that both the specific features and the size of the beetle determine whether friction will be affected by these microscale features. Please read our new paper out in Biotribology just this week. What new system will you investigate for multifunctionality with tribology?