Mimicking this self-cleaning mechanism of nature is relevant for a wide range of applications, such as non-fouling, anti-icing, and antibacterial coatings. However, engineered superhydrophobic surfaces often fail under conditions involving high temperature, pressure, and humidity-such as automotive and aircraft windshields and steam turbine power generators-when the air trapped in the texture can be prone to escape. So scientists have been looking for schemes to improve the robustness of these surfaces by delaying or preventing air escape.
Creating nanoscale textures
"In principle, the high robustness required for several applications could be achieved with texture features as small as 10 nanometers (billionths of a meter) because the pressure needed for liquid to infiltrate the texture and force the air out increases dramatically with shrinking texture size," explained Checco. "But in practice, it is difficult to shrink the surface texture features while maintaining control over their shape."
"For this work, we have developed a fabrication approach based on self assembly of nanostructures, which lets us precisely control the surface texture geometry over as large an area as we want-in principle, even as large as square meters," Checco said.
The procedure for creating these superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces, developed in collaboration with scientists at
"This new approach leverages our thin-film processing methods, in order to precisely tailor the surface nanotexture geometry through control of processing conditions," said Brookhaven physicist and co-author
The effect of shape
The scientists created and tested new materials with different nanoscale textures-some decorated with tiny straight-sided cylindrical pillars and some with angle-sided cones. They were also able to control the spacing between these nanoscale features to achieve robust water repellency.
After coating their test materials with a thin film of wax-like material, the scientists measured how water droplets rolled off each surface as they were tilted from vertical to flat positions and compared the behavior with that of untextured solids.
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