Reconciling the Conflict between Optical Transparency and Fouling Resistance with a Nanowrinkled Surface Inspired by Zebrafish's Cornea

Andre E. Vellwock, Pei Su, Zijing Zhang, Danqing Feng, Haimin Yao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Surface topography has been demonstrated as an effective nonchemical strategy for controlling the fouling resistance of a surface, but its impact on optical transparency remains a barrier to the application of this strategy in optical materials. To reconcile the conflicting effects of surface topography on optical transparency and fouling resistance, here we study the optical properties and antifouling performance of nanowrinkled surfaces inspired by the corneal surface of zebrafish (Danio rerio). Experimental and numerical analyses demonstrate that a good compromise between optical transparency and antifouling efficacy can be achieved by wavy nanowrinkles with a characteristic wavelength of 800 nm and an amplitude of 100 nm. In particular, the optimal wrinkled surface under study can reduce biofouling by up to 96% in a single-species (Pseudoalteromonas sp.) bacterial settlement assay in the laboratory and 89% in a field test while keeping the total transmittance above 0.98 and haze below 0.04 underwater. Moreover, our nanowrinkled surface also exhibits excellent resistance against contamination by inorganic particles. This work provides a nonchemical strategy for achieving the coexistence of optical transparency and fouling resistance on one single material, which implies significant application potential in various optical devices and systems, such as antibacterial contact lenses and self-cleaning solar panels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7617-7625
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022


  • bioinspiration
  • fouling
  • surface engineering
  • transparency
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)

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