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Breakthrough Coating Heals, Repels

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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Engineers at the University of Michigan are touting the durability characteristics of their recently developed self-healing, water-repellent, spray-on coating technology designed for a plethora of applications.

"Thousands of superhydrophobic surfaces have been looked at over the past 20 or 30 years, but nobody has been able to figure out how to systematically design one that's durable," Anish Tuteja, associate professor of materials science and engineering, said in a statement.

"I think that's what we've really accomplished here, and it's going to open the door for other researchers to create cheaper, perhaps even better superhydrophobic coatings."

The coating could potentially be used on rooftops, ship hulls, clothing and other surfaces, the team said in an announcement on the research.

Recipe for Durability

The university explains that the coating is formulated using fluorinated polyurethane elastomer and a specialized water-repellent molecule known as “F-POSS.”

The spray-on technology forms a slightly rubbery texture on the applied substrate.

Testing revealed a coating capable of physically healing itself from damage “even after being abraded, scratched, burned, plasma-cleaned, flattened, sonicated and chemically attacked,” according to the researchers. The chemical properties also heal themselves, the team says; if water-repellant F-POSS molecules are scraped from the substrate, new molecules will naturally migrate there to replace them.

Kevin Golovin, lead author and UM doctoral student, said that in addition to the coating produced, the team developed a process that researchers can use to optimize future coatings' formulations for specific applications and other factors, including cost.

"Most materials science researchers have focused on identifying one specific chemical system that's as durable and water-repellent as possible," he said in a statement. "We approached the problem differently, by measuring and mapping out the basic chemical properties that make a water-repellent coating durable. And some of the results surprised us."

The team’s complete findings were published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

From Lab to Market

HygraTek, a company founded by Tuteja with assistance from the university’s Tech Transfer program, will work to commercialize the product, according to the university. Tuteja anticipates that the coatings will be available for use before the end of 2017 for applications including water-repellent fabrics and spray-on coatings that can be purchased directly by consumers.

Support for the research was provided by the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

Both the University of Michigan and HygraTek have applied for patent protection for the technology.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Research and development; Roof coatings; Self-cleaning coatings; Self-healing; Ships and vessels; Specialty functions

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