Nanostructured alumina (NSA) has insecticidal properties and has been demonstrated to be effective against stored product insect pests in laboratory bioassays. NSA is a nano-engineered material synthesized by oxidation of metals, and resulting particles show fixed electric charges. On the other hand, insects exhibit their own electric charges generated by triboelectrification. We propose that the mechanism of action of NSA involves two steps occurring in sequential order. First, a strong electrical binding between negatively charged NSA particles and positively charged insect. Next, dehydration of the insect occurs due to the strong sorbtive action of the NSA particles that remove the insect cuticular, leading to death by dehydration. As postulated for insecticidal inert powder in generals, particles attach to the insect cuticle surface disrupting water balance, and effectiveness decreases as ambient humidity increases, given that electrostatic bond forces are reduced by electrostatic discharge. The high insecticidal efficacy of NSA is a result of its intrinsic electric charge, small particle size and high sorptive potential due to its large specific surface area. NSA could provide an alternative to conventional synthetic organic insecticides due to its strong insecticidal properties with the advantage that its mechanism of action involves physical and electrostatic phenomena.
Part of the book: Insecticides