Popularly known as the lotus, the aquatic species Nelumbo nucifera has a useful particularity. Its leaves are self-cleaning, or ultra-hydrophobic. This means that no particles of dirt or water adhere to its leaf, which is especially useful in the humid and muddy environments where the plant typically grows. However, this effect does not derive from a perfectly smooth surface or a resinous layer on the leaves. The lotus is, in fact, full of tiny folds that reduce the area of the contact surface and repel all the particles that try to adhere there. The lotus effect has been studied by nanotechnologists in order to apply this same effect to products, such as surfaces, paints, fabrics, and tiles that can easily clean themselves. As trivial as this may seem, when we think of the resources applied to cleaning skyscraper glass or even of the reduction in photovoltaic energy generation due to dust on solar panels, we can get a sense of the infinite possibilities that hydrophobic surfaces could represent.
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