Laser-based Biomimetic Functionalization of Surfaces: from Moisture Harvesting Lizards to Specific Fluid Transport Systems

Laser-based Biomimetic Functionalization of Surfaces: from Moisture Harvesting Lizards to Specific Fluid Transport Systems

P. Comanns K. Winands K. Arntz F. Klocke W. Baumgartner

Institute for Biology II of the RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, Germany

Institute of Biomedical Mechatronics, Johannes Kepler University, Austria

30 September 2014
| Citation



Inspirations found in nature became more and more famous for an innovative product development. An inter-disciplinary approach of scientific research and industrial development has shown that identification and transfer of biological principles to technical applications uncover secrets of specific adaptations resulting in innovations with remarkable potential.

Investigating the functional morphology of moisture harvesting lizards revealed the underlying principles of an adaptation to a life in arid environments. To survive water scarcity these lizards have developed different water catchment strategies. Special skin structures enable them to acquire water from moist substrate and transport the collected water to the snout. The former is a micro ornamentation, which can hold a water film to render the surface superhydrophilic, the latter is a network of half-open capillary channels that transports the collected water. Transferring these structures to a producible structure design and to technical surfaces requires a fundamental understanding of the biological principles as well as an abstraction and modification. Additionally enabling manufacturing technologies like laser structuring are needed to realize a functional sur- face structuring on complex shaped products. It is concluded that a biomimetic liquid transport can increase the product performance, improves product life time or saves resources.


capillary, laser surface structuring, moisture harvesting, passive fluid transport, surface functionalization, wetting


[1] Sherbrooke, W.C., Rain-harvesting in the Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum: Behavior and Integumental Morphology. Journal of Herpetology, 24(3), pp. 302–308, 1990. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.2307/1564398

[2] Peterson, C.C., Rain-harvesting behavior by a free-ranging desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos). Southwestern Naturalist, 43, pp. 391–394, 1998.

[3] Vesely, M. & Modry, D., Rain-Harvesting Behavior in Agamid Lizards (Trapelus). Journal of Herpetology, 36(2), pp. 311–314, 2002. doi:

[4] Schwenk, K. & Greene, H.W., Water Collection and Drinking in Phrynocephalus  helioscopus: A Possible Condensation Mechanism. Journal of Herpetology, 21(2), pp. 134–139, 1987. doi:

[5] Peterson, J.A., The Microstructure of the Scale Surface in Iguanid Lizards. Journal of Herpetology, 18(4), pp. 437–467, 1984. doi:

[6] Comanns, P., Effertz, C., Hischen, F., Staudt, K., Böhme, W. & Baumgartner, W., Moisture harvesting and water transport through specialized micro-structures on the integument of lizards. Beilstein J. Nanotechnol., 2, pp. 204–214, 2011. doi:

[7] Sherbrooke, W.C., Scardino, A.J., de Nys, R. & Schwarzkopf, L., Functional morphology of scale hinges used to transport water: convergent drinking adaptations in desert lizards (Moloch horridus and Phrynosoma cornutum). Zoomorphology, 126, pp. 89–102, 2007. doi: http://

[8] Sherbrooke, W.C., Integumental water movement and rate of water ingestion during rain harvesting in the Texas horned lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum. Amphibia-Reptilia 25, pp. 29–39, 2004. 


[9] Withers, P., Cutaneous Water Acquisition by the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus: Agamidae). Journal of Herpetology, 27(3), pp. 265–270, 1993. doi:

[10] Gans, C., Merlin, R. & Blumer, W.F.C., The Water-collecting Mechanism of Moloch horridus Re-examined. Amphibia-Reptilia, 3, pp. 57–64, 1982. doi: 156853882x00167

[11] Bentley, P.J. & Blumer, W.F.C., Uptake of Water by the Lizard, Moloch horridus. Nature, 4829, pp. 699–700, 1962. doi:

[12] Hancock, M.J., Sekeroglu, K. & Demirel, M.C., Bioinspired Directional Surfaces for Adhesion, Wetting, and Transport. Adv. Funct. Mater., 22, pp. 2223–2234, 2012. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1002/adfm.201103017

[13] Stenzel,V, Wilke, Y. & Hage, W., Drag-reducing paints for the reduction of fuel consumption in aviation and shipping. Progress in Organic Coatings, 70, pp. 224–229, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/j.porgcoat.2010.09.026

[14] Büttner, C. & Schulz, U., Shark skin inspired riblet structures as aerodynamically optimized high temperature coatings for blades of aeroengines. Smart Materials and Structures, 20(9), pp. 1–9, 2011. doi:

[15] Gennes, P.G., Brochard–Wyart, F. & Quéré, D., Capillary and wetting phenomena. SpringerVerlag: Berlin and New York, 2010. doi:

[16] Xin, B. & Hao, J., Reversibly switchable wettability. Chem. Soc. Rev., 39, pp. 769–782, 2010. doi:

[17] Klocke, F., Funkenerosives Abtragen (Chapter 2), Fertigungsverfahren 3 – Abtragen, Generieren und Lasermaterialbearbeitung. 4th edition, Springer-Verlag: Berlin, pp. 3–126, 2007. doi:

[18] Klocke, F., Arntz, K., Mescheder, H. & Winands, K., Reproduzierbare Designoberfl aechen im Werkzeugbau. wt Werkstattstechnik online 99(11/12), pp. 844–850, 2009.

[19] Kordt, M., Konturnahes Laserstrahlstrukturieren für Kunststoffspritzgießwerkzeuge. PhDthesis, RWTH-Aachen, 2007.

[20] Poprawe, R., Laser Application Technology (Chapter 15). Tailored Light 2, Springer-Verlag: Berlin and Heidelberg, pp. 343–357, 2011.