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Copper Coating Gives Water the Bounce

Friday, April 25, 2014

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Coatings research has once again shown the hydrophobic lotus some love, with a new metal coating technology that mimics the plant's water-repellent features.

However, this coating goes a step beyond, with a new process that reportedly cuts costs by incorporating the substrate into the coating itself.

The new technology was developed by Dr. Ranga Pitchuman, a professor in the mechanical engineering department at Virginia Tech; and Atieh Haghdoost, a recent doctoral graduate from the university's Advanced Materials and Technologies Laboratory.

Atieh Haghdoost

A video demonstration explains the coating's basic non-wetting characteristics.

"We produced a low-cost and simple approach for coating metallic surfaces with an enduring superhydrophobic (strong water repellent) film of copper," Pitchumani explained in a research announcement.

Pitchumani is on an invitational assignment as the chief scientist and director of the Concentrating Solar Power and Systems Integration programs of the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative.

Looking to the Lotus

"Bio-inspired" coatings have drawn a lot of attention in recent years, including water-repelling coatings that mimic the leaves of lotus plants.

hydrophobic coatings copper coatings
Screenshots from Acs.org video

Water cannot stick to a coated metallic surface (left), but immediately adheres to an uncoated one.

The Virginia Tech researchers say their method is different because a "two-step process is used to directly make superhydrophobic copper coatings without the more costly need for an additional layer of a low surface energy material."

At Queen's University, researchers cited the lotus leaf as their inspiration in developing water- and oil-repelling coatings for a wide range of surfaces, including metal, glass, wood, ceramics, plastics and fibers.

Harvard University researchers found that lotus leaf-inspired coatings for icephobic surfaces failed under high humidity conditions. But they then used that discovery to invent a new technology that sends water, frost and ice sliding right off an ultra-smooth slippery surface.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences sweetened the pot, turning to both the lotus leaf and raspberries to develop a self-cleaning, anti-fog glass coating.

Preserved Properties

Pitchumani and Haghdoost developed a template-free electrodeposition process that allows the coating material to be made of the same material as the substrate, so the substrate's thermal and electrical properties are preserved.

water-repelling coatings
Screenshots from Acs.org video

The video shows a water droplet bouncing off a copper surface coated with the template-free electrodeposition process, which preserves the substrate's thermal and electrical properties.

Other manufacturing processes use a template that can adversely affect the texture of the coating being deposited, the team says.

A video demonstration explains the coating's basic non-wetting characteristic. When water is dropped onto the coated copper, it refuses to stick and bounces right off. However, when dropped on a non-coated copper surface, the water adheres immediately.

Possible Applications

Many engineering applications, such as heat exchangers and electronic circuit boards, use copper because it allows for high heat and electrical conductivity.

Ranga Pitchumani
Virginia Tech

Pitchumani says his water-repelling coatings save money by eliminating a layer of low surface energy material.

While they hope to expand past copper in the future, the researchers say current possibilities for the technology include:

  • Minimizing or eliminating fouling in heat exchangers;
  • Reduce pressure drop in flow-through tubes; and
  • Improve corrosion resistance and mitigate creep failure in electronic printed circuit board applications.

Their paper on the research, "Fabricating Superhydrophobic Surfaces via a Two-Step Electrodeposition Technique," was featured on the cover of the April 15 issue of Langmuir, a journal from the American Chemical Society.

Pitchumani and Haghdoost currently have an international patent pending.

   

Tagged categories: Bio-based materials; Coatings technology; Copper; Research; Thermal-barrier coatings; Water repellents

Comment from Robert Bullard, (4/25/2014, 10:26 AM)

What happens when the altered Cu surface pattern is exposed to the vast multitude of reactive substances that may be in contacting liquids or gases or extreme temperature gradients, etc.?


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