Chemical weapons research protects against moisture

Extreme protection against moisture is a spin out from research aimed at developing clothing that could protect military personnel against nerve agents, according to Dr Delwyn Evans, applied research manager at P2i.

Speaking at an event organised by the Nanotechnology KTN, he revealed that the extreme hydrophobicity of the company's products arose because the pulsed plasma treatment they use to make the coatings retains the monomer structure. Dr Evans displayed a diagram that suggested that it causes a 'Lotus effect', with projecting molecular structures on a very fine scale.

The end result is a coating of fluorinated acrylate monomer, 10 to 60nm thick, with a contact angle with water of 120º and with hexadecane of 81º, which outperforms anything else that has been tried before by a significant margin.

When asked about its durability, Dr Evans said that it forms a molecular bond with the surface it is being put on, and its durability is limited only by the durability of the surface. It apparently works well on cellulose, glass, polypropylene, polyethersulfone, polyethylene terephthalate, polyamide, aluminium, polyethylene, polytetrafluorethylene and most fabrics. The latest commercial application is to protect receiver-in-canal and behind-the-ear hearing aids from the effects of steam, humidity and sweat.

Tom Shelley

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