It has been revealed that humans are not the only ones to take personal grooming seriously. For insects, a lack of fastidiousness can be a matter of life and death, impacting mating, communication and their sense of smell.
Alexander Hackmann and colleagues from the Department of Zoology have undertaken the first biomechanical investigation, showing a potential correlation between the hygiene devices used by ants and developments in nanotechnology. The Cambridge researchers have used mechanical experiments and close-up videos to identify the microscopic combs and brushes used by ants to clean their antennae. Their findings could have significant ramifications for nanotechnology, where contamination of small things, especially electronic devices, can be hugely problematic.
Camponotus rufifemur ants possess a specialised cleaning structure on their front legs that is actively used to groom their antennae. A similar bioinspired device could be developed for cleaning on micro and nano devices.
Applicants of Biological Sciences should read further into the link between insect mechanisms and technological developments. Computer Science applicants can further explore how biological experiments influence practical applications in computation. Human Science and HSPS applicants may want to explore the correlation between biomedical and empirical research.