A team of researchers from the University of Michigan has created a new coating which can swiftly shed water and oil-based liquids, alcohols and any other liquids. The coating is named as “omniphobic”. It can be used to protect electronics and other sensitive surfaces from almost everything. The new liquid repellent coating is a creation of the lab of Anish Tuteja at the University of Michigan. The product is very durable, clear and can be easily applied to any surface and make it very multifunctional. Tuteja said, “I have a 2-year-old at home, so for me, this particular project was about more than just the science. We’re excited about what this could do to make homes and daycares cleaner places, and we’re looking at a variety of possible applications in industry as well.”
The material is a result of a unique combination of fluorinated polyurethane and fluid-repellant flurodecyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (F-POSS). Tuteja’s lab selected this mix by “mapping out the fundamental properties of a vast library of substances in order to mathematically predict how any two will behave when they’re combined.” Tuteja said, “You can repel water with a rough surface that creates tiny pockets of air between the water and the surface, but those surfaces don’t always repel oils or alcohols because of their lower surface tension. We needed a very smooth surface that interacts as little as possible with a variety of liquids, and we also needed ingredients that mix together very well, because too much phase separation between ingredients will scatter light.”
The process enabled the researchers to conceive a recipe which delivers a coating “that can be sprayed, brushed, dipped or spin-coated onto a wide variety of surfaces, where it binds tightly”. The researchers also kept in mind the strength and transparency while they were creating their recipe. The resulting product was hence durable for everyday use but it was clear as well. Mathew Boban, a graduate researcher on the study said, “The repellent and binder mix together well enough to make a clear coating, but there’s a very small amount of phase separation between them. That separation allows the F-POSS to sort of float to the surface and create a nice repellent layer.”
Tuteja has said that his product will be cheap to manufacture and can go to market within the next two years. His team has already started studying to make sure that it is non-toxic so that it can be used in childproof coatings. The research for the coating was provided by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation. The patent application for the coating was also filed jointly by the University of Michigan and the US Air Force.