Researchers have successfully developed the most hydrophobic surface ever, potentially leading to the elimination of household chores and transforming the industrial sector.
A group of researchers in Finland, headed by Robin Ras from Aalto University and supported by scientists from the University of Jyväskylä, has created a method to increase the effectiveness of water droplets sliding off surfaces.
Water’s adhesion and repulsion properties have a significant impact on various fields, including cooking, transportation, and optics. The use of water-repellent surfaces in the future has the potential to greatly enhance numerous household and industrial technologies, such as plumbing, shipping, and the automotive industry.
The scientists developed silicon surfaces that have a “liquid-like” layer on the surface, which causes water droplets to slide off. This topcoat, which is very mobile, serves as a lubricant between the surface and the water droplets.
The finding challenges current beliefs about the interaction between solid surfaces and water, creating a new opportunity for investigating slipperiness on a microscopic scale.
According to Sakari Lepikko, the primary researcher of the research published in Nature Chemistry on Monday, their findings mark the first instance of directly creating surfaces with molecular heterogeneity at the nanometer scale.
By precisely controlling factors such as temperature and water level within the reactor, the group was able to optimize the extent of coverage of the monolayer on the silicon surface.
Ras expressed his enthusiasm for the integration of a reactor and an ellipsometer, which allows for a highly detailed observation of the growth of self-assembled monolayers.
The findings indicated that there was greater slipperiness when the amount of self-assembled monolayer (SAM) was either low or high, which also corresponded to when the surface was the most uniform. When the SAM coverage was low, the silicon surface was the most dominant, while at high coverage, the SAMs were the most dominant.
Lepikko stated: “It was surprising that even with low coverage, the slipperiness was exceptional.”
Utilizing the latest technique, the group successfully produced the most slippery liquid surface ever recorded.
Lepikko suggests that this discovery will have far-reaching effects in situations requiring surfaces that repel droplets. This includes numerous scenarios in both everyday life and industrial settings.
According to Lepikko, some possible applications of our counterintuitive mechanism include managing heat transfer in pipes, preventing ice formation, and reducing fogging. It can also aid in microfluidics by facilitating the movement of small droplets and in developing self-cleaning surfaces. This unique mechanism offers a novel approach to enhancing droplet mobility in any desired location.
The team will continue to experiment with the arrangement of the self-assembling monolayer and enhance its quality.
Lepikko explained that the primary problem with a SAM coating is its thinness, which causes it to disperse easily upon physical contact. However, researching these coatings provides us with valuable scientific understanding that can be utilized to develop long-lasting practical uses.
In the past, Aalto University scientists have created methods to make surfaces resistant to water. In 2020, they came up with an armored superhydrophobic surface that is very efficient in repelling water. This material is commonly used in medical environments to prevent the transmission of bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms.
The durability of superhydrophobic surfaces is easily compromised, reducing their effectiveness. The research team’s armor plating improves their durability and limits the spread of pathogens.