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UK Team Develops ‘Green’ Hydrophobic Coating

Friday, June 16, 2017

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Scientists at a U.K. university say they’ve developed a “green” alternative to current hydrophobic and hydrophilic materials used in antifouling and waterproofing applications.

The team, working out of the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University in Wales, says it’s developed a spray-coated nanomaterial that provides texture to a substrate and can be tailored to provide superhydrophobicity or superhydrophilicity. Superhydrophobic materials are used to repel water and create “self-cleaning” surfaces in some applications; superhydrophilic materials have been proposed for antifogging and antifouling in some cases.

Shirin Alexander/University of Swansea

The Swansea team says it’s developed a spray-coated nanomaterial that provides texture to a substrate and can be tailored to provide superhydrophobicity or superhydrophilicity.

The basis of the Swansea approach is aluminum oxide nanoparticles. The researchers, led by faculty members Shirin Alexander and Andrew Barron, explored methods of manipulating, or “tuning,” the surface properties of the nanoparticles using hydrocarbons—different types of carboxylic acids.

Different Acids, Different Properties

The research team found that by modifying the nanoparticles with carboxylic acids of various chain lengths and surface energies, they could tune the particles’ hydrophobicity and create coatings that exhibited properties anywhere from superhydrophobic to superhydrophilic.

The scientists say in both cases, the nanocoating exhibited roughness, which can enforce both superhydrophobicity and superhydrophilicity. But nanoparticles with the methoxy functionality exhibit high surface energy, making the coating superhydrophilic, where nanoparticles modified with branched hydrocarbon chains have lower surface energy, and repel water with their branched, spiky chains.

The team sees the hydrocarbon-modified nanoparticles as a potential replacement for fluorocarbons used for superhydrophobicity; the hydrocarbon materials could be less expensive and friendlier to the environment, they say.

In addition to Alexander and Barron, research was conducted by graduate student Wafaa Al-Shatty and research fellow Alex Lord.

The full paper can be read in the open-source ACS Omega journal online.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; hydrophobic coatings; Nano and hybrid coatings; Nanotechnology; Research; Research and development

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