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Published on : Dec 29, 2015

Owing to their superior water-repellant characteristics, superhydrophobic coatings find extensive usage across a wide number of industries such as electronics, medical devices, consumer goods, automobiles, aerospace, kitchen utensils, etc. The flourishing growth of each one of these industries in the past few years, especially in developing economies of Asia Pacific, has led to a continuous increase in demand for a variety of superhydrophobic coatings in the past years.

However, like many other markets, the market for superhydrophobic coatings has also lately been scrutinized over the flourocarbon-based nature of commonly used superhydrophobic coatings. A variety of silicon-based materials are commonly used for manufacturing superhydrophobic coatings, and thus carry the risk of causing harm to human health as well as the environment. Thus the market has been on a lookout for a greener alternative to traditional products and raw materials. A new discovery seeks to present a good solution to the issue.

Scientists from the Rice University, Bristol University, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, and University of Swansea have collaborated in the development of a new variety of superhydrophobic nanomaterials that is nontoxic, inexpensive, and can be used for a number of surfaces via spin coating or spraying. The findings have been recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces of American Chemical Society. It is being said that the material can be an effective green alternative to the traditional fluorocarbons-based varieties of superhydrophobic coatings, which are also known to be quite costly.

The new material has a microstructure that has been created by the collection of alumina nanoparticles, simulating the papillae in lotus leaves and the hyperbranched organic moieties, which simulate the effect of epicuticular waxes on lotus leaves. Researchers are calling the discovery LSEM - a branched hydrocarbon low surface energy material.

In lab tests, the material has exhibited a water contact angle of about 155 degrees, a bit more than the minimum water contact angle required for a good superhydrophobic material. Even with varied curing temperatures and coating techniques, the material has retained its qualities in the tests. Researchers are now working towards improving the adhesion of the material for various surfaces.

With further advancements, the material can find vast growth opportunities across multiple end-use industries that are at a continuous lookout for ways to cut down on the amount of harmful chemicals contained in their overall makeup.