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Lotus leaves and tea tree oil are providing inspiration for scientists trying to improve results for patients who have implants such as hip replacements.

Melbourne researchers are developing techniques to change the surface of titanium implants using components of tea tree oil and by mimicking the surface of the lotus leaf.

The researchers, from Swinburne University of Technology, are also trying to develop bioactive coatings, in collaboration with James Cook University in Townsville and German company Laser Zentrum.

The coatings and adapted titanium surface could reduce the risk of infection and rejection in implant patients, researchers hope.

Professor Russell Crawford from Swinburne said the problem with titanium was that it was a good surface on which to grow human tissue but was also attracted bacteria.

"We want to find a way by which we can change surfaces so they are less attractive for the bacteria but still retain their biocompatibility," he said.

Professor Crawford said the aim was to develop a surface that bacteria can't attach to, like a droplet of water rolling off a lotus leaf.

Tea tree oil, which can kill bacteria, is being used to develop the bioactive coating for implants which could reduce the risk of infection.