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Self-Healing Polymers Produce Water-Resistant Coating

Monday, October 18, 2021

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Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have reportedly developed an ultrathin, water-resistant coating made from self-healing polymers to increase steam power plant efficiency.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, was led by UIUC Mechanical Science and Engineering professors Nenad Miljkovic and Christopher Evans.

“Self-healing materials can recycle and reprocess themselves,” Evans said in a news release. “We found that we can successfully utilize the healing enabled by the dynamic bonds, allowing the coatings to self-repair in response to scratching or to prevent pinholes from growing.”

According to the study, the low-surface-energy hydrophobic film can function as a self-cleaning, anti-icing, antifogging, antibacterial, antifouling, reduced hydrodynamic drag and enhanced heat and mass transport coating.

Researchers wanted to focus on preventing pinhole defects and abrasion-induced crack formations in steam power plant condensers. By resolving the short lifetime of current coatings used in steam power plants, that breakdown in weeks or even hours, electricity producers can increase efficiency.

“The coatings, when applied to the surfaces of the condensers, make them more water-resistant and efficient at forming water droplets, which optimizes heat transfer,” said graduate research assistant Jingcheng Ma, a co-lead author of the study.

Called dyn-PDMS, the material reportedly can be easily dip-coated onto materials in nanoscale layers on various surfaces such as silicon, aluminum, copper or steel.

“One of the reasons we can get such thin layers is because the solvents used in the reaction evaporate very quickly, leaving only the polymer,” Evans said. “Also, once cured, the material repairs itself from scratches very fast – so fast that it is difficult to observe in real time. We do not see this behavior in large, bulk samples of the material – only in the thin-film, and that is a question we are trying to answer now.”

To exam the self-healing properties of the coating, the study reports that “two millimeter-thick bulk dyn-PDMS samples were synthesized and scratched using a razor blade. After pressing the damaged samples in a hydraulic press, the scratches fully healed, and the sample became optically clear and as uniform as prior to damage.”

The dyn-PDMS film is also purportedly fluorine-free, which makes it more biodegradable compared to other materials that can take hundreds of years to degrade.

The entire study can be viewed here.

Other Hydrophobic Coatings

In June 2020, researchers at Espoo, Finland-based Aalto University published findings in the journal Nature about new potential uses for an armor-plated superhydrophobic material.

To combat cuts, scratches or dents and trapping liquids, researchers from Finland and China developed an “armor-plated” superhydrophobic surface that is reportedly more durable.

The work is for surfaces of metal, glass or ceramic and the researchers cite nanostructures in a “honeycomb” pattern.

In May, researchers at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, British Columbia) reportedly developed a new waterproof coating that they said is cheaper to produce, free of fluorinated compounds and effective on a wide variety of materials, compared to other products.

The mixture reportedly can be used on a variety of materials, such as fabric, glass, wood and metal, which can be sprayed with or dipped into the coating. Tests showed that the treated surfaces remain waterproof for at least 18 months, and further testing is underway to determine their performance over an even longer time period or under harsh physical conditions.

The team estimated that the coating could be applied to create antibiofouling, stain-resistant coatings for iron or steel, anti-icing and water-repelling paint for building construction, as well as efficient membranes for water-oil separation.

Recent University of Illinois Projects

In 2020, a team of researchers from UIUC and Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, CEE and CS/Machine Learning departments announced its plans to establish an institute focusing on artificial intelligence in construction.

Through the new institute, researchers hoped that the programs would advance both the application of AI in construction and the science of AI research in general through identifying key areas for the highest impact of AI in design, construction and operation of the built environment.

The University of Illinois at Chicago announced in August that it would be participating in AnalySwift, LLC’s Academic Partner Program to accelerate development and adoption of new materials for manufacturing by predicting effects of porosity level on strength.

The university plans to utilize the high-fidelity modeling software provider’s SwiftComp simulation software for researching new porous coatings for use in manufacturing. According to AnalySwift, the SwiftComp program is a general-purpose modeling code for composites and other heterogenous materials.

The modeling software provider adds that the specific program UIUC plans to use directly and seamlessly links detailed microstructure and structural behavior for composite structures including beams, plates/shells and 3D structures.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coatings technology; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); hydrophobic coatings; Latin America; North America; Quality Control; Research and development; Self-healing; Waterproofing; Z-Continents

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