Spray-on hydrophobic material

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have developed a spray-on material with the ability to repel water. The researchers say their protective coating could eventually be used to waterproof mobile phones, prevent ice from forming on aeroplanes, keeping skyscraper windows clean or protect boat hulls from corroding.

The team created a much more robust coating than previous materials by combining two plastics, one tough and one flexible.

“It's like two interwoven fishing nets, made of different materials,” explained PhD student William Wong, from the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering.

The water-repellent or superhydrophobic coating is also transparent and extremely resistant to ultraviolet radiation.

Head of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory, associate professor Antonio Tricoli, said the new material could change how we interact with liquids: “The key innovation is that this transparent coating is able to stabilise very fragile nanomaterials resulting in ultra-durable nanotextures with numerous real-world applications.”

The team developed two ways of creating the material, both of which are said to be cheaper and easier than current manufacturing processes. One method uses a flame to generate the nanoparticle constituents of the material. For lower temperature applications, the team dissolved the two components in a sprayable form.

The researchers said that, in addition to waterproofing, the ability to control the properties of materials could be applied to a wide range of other coatings.

“A lot of the functional coatings today are very weak, but we will be able to apply the same principles to make robust coatings that are, for example, anti-corrosive, self-cleaning or oil-repellent,” said Wong.

Author
Tom Austin-Morgan

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