Some small animals only use water transport mechanisms passively driven by surface energies. However, little is known about passive water transport mechanisms because it is difficult to measure the wettability of microstructures in small areas and determine the chemistry of biological surfaces. Herein, we developed to directly analyse the structural effects of wettability of chemically modified biological surfaces by using a nanoliter volume water droplet and a hi-speed video system. The wharf roach Ligia exotica transports water only by using open capillaries in its legs containing hair-and paddle-like microstructures. The structural effects of legs chemically modified with a self-assembled monolayer were analysed, so that the wharf roach has a smart water transport system passively driven by differences of wettability between the microstructures. We anticipate that this passive water transport mechanism may inspire novel biomimetic fluid manipulations with or without a gravitational field.
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