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Smart Coating Turns Over a New Leaf

Thursday, April 11, 2013

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“Bio-inspired” coatings—technology that seeks to emulate the genius of nature—have found promise in insects, algae, plants and even sperm.

The lotus leaf, famous for its water repellency, has drawn considerable attention in this regard, and researchers at Queen's University are now banking on it.

Lotus leaf
Wikimedia / William Thielicke

The lotus leaf's natural ability to repel water has inspired a new protective coating.

A new coating developed there has shown promise in repellling water- and oil-based deposits on a wide range of surfaces, including metal, glass, wood, ceramics, plastics and fibers.

Discovered by researchers Guojun Liu and Dean Xiong of the university's Chemistry Department, the coating is showing potential in repellling fouling, contaminants, ice, fingerprints and graffiti, the team said in an announcement.

The researchers are working with Lorama Inc., a Canadian manufacturer and supplier of novel additives to the paint and coatings industry, to commercialize the technology for a broad suite of uses.

PARTEQ Innovations, the university’s technology transfer office, is also working to bring the coating to market. The office works with institutional researchers, industry and the business and venture capital communities to bring early stage technologies to market.

water strider coating
ACS Nano

The talents of the water strider inspired Chinese scientists to develop a coating for a device that can repel oil in water.

“Our discovery was inspired by the lotus leaf, which has given us a wonderful example of a self-cleaning system, designed by nature,” says Liu, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and an award-winning researcher.

The industry-academic collaboration is supported by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), which is following up an initial investment of $25,000 with an additional $200,000 in development funding.

Bio-Inspired Bounty

Mother Nature has inspired considerable recent coatings research.

Harvard University scientists have turned to the pitcher plant and the lotus in developing slippery coatings to resist ice and other materials. Chinese scientists have also found anti-fog potential in a lotus-inspired coating.

Brazilian fern
The Ohio State University

The sticky, slippery hairs on the surface of a Brazilian fern have inspired a coating that may reduce drag and boost buoyancy on boats and submarines.

Chinese researchers have produced an oil-repellant coating inspired by the water strider.

Antifouling researchers have found promise in algae and even in invasive weeds, while scientists looking for safer flame-retardant coatings have dabbled in the DNA of herring sperm.


Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Anti-graffiti coatings; Biomimicry; Coatings technology; Water repellents

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