Researchers have discovered a natural lubricant that can replace Teflon. Scientists have found it in the knee joints of darkling beetles.
The lubricant obtained from the beetle’s paws reduces friction more than Teflon. The wax-like material will come in handy in microrobotics and prosthetics if a cost-effective way to synthesize it can be found.
Many beetles are known to have natural lubrication to prevent wear and tear. However, scientists from the University of Keele in Germany have found that the species of darkling beetles Zophobas morio has a particularly large amount of this substance, which differs in its properties from analogues.
Researchers have found that a waxy lubricant is released from the pores in the beetle’s shell around the leg joint in cylinders up to 1 micrometer wide. It spreads during movement of the joint.
The researchers put together a protein-based substance and tested its ability to reduce friction by placing it between two small pieces of glass. Then they measured how much force it took to slide. The team found that friction was reduced even more than with Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene). This is the same material used on non-stick surfaces.
The results of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.