Explore resources for teaching about superhydrophobicity and nanotechnology using the story of how super water‑repellent lotus leaves inspired self‑cleaning surface coatings.

The Story

Lotus plants can remain clean even while growing in very muddy water because the surface of their leaves are super water-repellent, or “hydrophobic”. Tiny nanoscale bumps on the leaves make it hard for water to stay on the surface. This is because the bumps help the water droplet keep a spherical, ball-like shape, making it easier for the water to roll off. As the droplets roll, they pick up dirt particles and carry them away, helping the leaf to stay clean. Scientists and engineers have created special paints and coatings with similar nanoscale features that replicate these water-repellent and self-cleaning properties.

StoColor® Lotusan® is a lotus-inspired paint that keeps buildings clean. Any dirt on the surface is simply carried away when it rains.

GreenShield™ is an oil-, water-, and stain-repellant finish for upholstery fabric that also uses lotus-inspired nano particles.

Biological Strategy and Innovations

Learn more about the lotus and the innovations it has inspired on these Ask Nature pages.

Recommended Teaching Resources

Use these resources to engage students in this topic and make connections to physical science and nanotechnology.

This narrated film offers an up close look at the tiny nanostructures that give the lotus leaf its unique properties.

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Created by NISE Network (CC BY‑NC‑SA 3.0 US). View source.