Eco-friendly solution stops ants in their tracks

Developing slippery paint to combat ants might sound like a weird and wonderful topic for a PhD thesis. But Aurélie Féat’s research may well have paved the way for new innovations in coatings that could help save billions of dollars.
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Ants and termites can cause up to $40 billion of damage to buildings annually

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Careful formulation of a paint can create loosely bound particles that stick out from the surface

These particles can get stuck on an ant’s feet and make them fall off walls


“We found that the most successful paint was one with small particles. So we formulated a paint that caused some of these particles to transfer to the ants’ feet and defeat their sticking mechanism”

 


 


 

“We found that the most successful paint was one with small particles, some of which were only loosely bound in the paint coating,” explains Aurélie. “We have shown that these small particles are transferred to the ants’ sticky feet, making them no longer sticky, and therefore they fall off the wall. The type of particle also matters, as well as the size.”

 


Adds scientist Martin Murray, who was Aurélie’s supervisor at AkzoNobel. “Aurélie’s work was very inspiring because it showed us that environmentally friendly solutions can work. With the best of the test paints, no ants could climb up the panels we coated. The concept paint wasn’t optimized for the best aesthetics, but I expect they could be achieved.”

Although the project has now stopped, it has opened up plenty of potential for future innovation. “We expect to use what we have learned to help us develop new products,” adds Martin. “Any developments in this particular field will certainly be faster thanks to what we’ve already learned.”

Entitled “Alternatives to insecticides: Bio-inspired coatings and sprays to tackle insect pests”, Aurélie successfully defended her thesis and obtained her PhD in October. AkzoNobel R&D manager Gerard van Ewijk took part in the opposition. She joined Gerard’s team in January 2020.

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