Self-Cleaning Lotus Leaves

on January 20, 2007

Gadget Lab: “Scientists Copy Nature For Self-Cleaning Plastics

In the third article on design-in-nature, Wired magazine’s Gadget Lab blog summarizes ongoing research in “self-cleaning plastics.” Quoting research published through the (Dutch) University of Twente, the blog explains how the self-cleaning process of lotus leaves is being adapted into self-cleaning plastics:

Those examples of so-called "unintelligent design" are, most likely, misunderstandings of their functions.

“The phenomenon of self[-]cleaning surfaces is demonstrated in nature by the leafs of nelumbo nucifera, the lotus flower. Water droplets barely touch the leafs of this plant before forming beads and rolling off. … Dirt is absorbed into a droplet and washed off this way.”

[…]

In essence, a combination of water-repellent surface (to prevent the material absorbing it) and microscopic surface characteristics that keep dirt slightly elevated (so beads of water can pick them up) make for easy, contact-free cleaning.

But-surprise!-the designer cited for this system is evolution:

[Nature’s] solutions are the results of millions of years of natural selection, which keeps everything that doesn't actively [mess] up an organism's differential reproductive success.

On top of that, the blog tacks on a jab against creationists:

Hence appendixes, five toes, platypuses, and other things whose engineering isn’t exactly easy or desirable to duplicate. As anti-creationist wags are knows to say, “unintelligent design.”

As we’ve explained before, those examples of so-called “unintelligent design” (which are, in fact, often still marvels of complexity) are, most likely, misunderstandings of their functions (see Get Answers: Vestigial organs for a few examples), although some may be testaments to the destructive results of the Fall and the generations of harmful mutations that have accumulated since Eden. Yet despite these, examples that shout “design!” abound-including self-cleaning leaves, bat flight, and pearly-white beetles.


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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.