Nature-inspired surface topography: design and function

Xian Tong Yan, Yuan Kai Jin, Xue Mei Chen, Chao Zhang, Chong Lei Hao, Zuan Kai Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Learning from nature has traditionally and continuously provided important insights to drive a paradigm shift in technology. In particular, recent studies show that many biological organisms exhibit spectacular surface topography such as shape, size, spatial organization, periodicity, interconnectivity, and hierarchy to endow them with the capability to adapt dynamically and responsively to a wide range of environments. More excitingly, in a broader perspective, these normally neglected topological features have the potential to fundamentally change the way of how engineering surface works, such as how fluid flows, how heat is transported, and how energy is generated, saved, and converted, to name a few. Thus, the design of nature-inspired surface topography for unique functions will spur new thinking and provide paradigm shift in the development of the new engineering surfaces. In this review, we first present a brief introduction to some insights extracted from nature. Then, we highlight recent progress in designing new surface topographies and demonstrate their applications in emerging areas including thermal-fluid transport, anti-icing, water harvesting, power generation, adhesive control, and soft robotics. Finally, we offer our perspectives on this emerging field, with the aim to stimulate new thinking on the development of next-generation of new materials and devices, and dramatically extend the boundaries of traditional engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number224601
JournalScience China: Physics, Mechanics and Astronomy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • biomimetic
  • interfacial interaction
  • mechanisms
  • natural inspiration
  • surface engineering
  • surface topography
  • unique functions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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