Super-Slippery Coating Inspired by Carnivorous Plant
An ultraslippery coating that repels oil and water even on vertical surfaces is created with a glass honeycomb-like structure with craters (left). This is coated with a Teflon-like chemical (purple) that binds to the honeycomb cells to form a stable liquid film. The film repels droplets of both water and oily liquids (right). Because it's a liquid, it flows, which helps the coating repair itself when damaged. (Source: Nicolas Vogel, Wyss Institute)
This is quite an interesting development, Ann, and the way scientists used their inspiration to create such a unique and useful material is fascinating. I wouldn't have even known about this plant, yet alone thought to use it to inspire a self-healing, durable material like this that could have a major impact on future product and device design. I am endlessly suprised by where researchers glean their creative inspiration for some of the inventions we cover.
I agree, the creativity shown in this one meets part of my definition of innovation. What I also liked about it is the fact that the researchers have continued to pursue this line of inquiry and now have a third-generation or so implementation of the original material concept. The next-gen version after this one will most likely be a commercialized form.
It's nice to see the progress being made here. I can't wait to see real world application.
As a kid, we had a Venus Flytrap plant. Carnivorous plants are really interesting to watch. Other kids may have torched ants with magnifying glasses; I caught flies to feed to our plant! Great inspiration.
Glad you liked this one, Nadine. We don't always get to find out what happens to some of these inventions after the initial reports and sometimes nothing happens and they don't get any further towards commercialization. My first introduction to a carnivorous plant was science class, also a Venus Flytrap. Smelly! Mostly because of the dead insects decomposing.
That's a good point, Ann, on getting to see the follow-through on the technology. Alot of things we report on don't ever make it into commercial use. Good on you as well for following up and reporting on what happens when the technology leaves the lab.
Is this the same stuff that Home Depot has been advertising recently, from Rustoleum? Too many similarities to be a coincidence. This ad just started running a few days ago. HD website has many reviews, largely mixed.
Ratsky, this material isn't even commercialized yet so it's definitely not being sold at Home Depot. There have been several similar R&D announcements in the last year or so of such slippery surface/coating technology. I'd guess the Home Depot stuff is the result of one of those.
At this point, the primary difference I see in the product descriptions is the Rustoleum product doesn't claim complete transparency; several reviews comment on the "milky sheen" it imparts to the coated surface.
I can think of a practical application. Have you watched the Indy 500 with the onboard cameras running? The glass cover on the camera has to rotate when it gets dirty so as to expose a fresh clean area. This substance could make lens cleaning unnecessary. I see that there is increased interest in backup cameras being installed on automobiles. This stuff could make it easy to keep road dirt off the camera lens.
Ann, Don't look for funding from the auto industry soon. Thire margins (except for low volumn exotics) are too thin. A more luctrative source might be aviation when bugs and dirt can have real safety implications. Will this surface stand up to high velocity air and water flows?
szyhnc, we know the automotive OEMs have thin margins. But there's a huge aftermarket for all kinds of add-ons, including cameras, additional sideview mirrors, etc. that this coating might be applied to, and that people spend a surprising (to me) amount of money in. The only tests I saw mentioned were touching the surface, applying and then peeling off a piece of tape, and wiping the surface with a tissue. Since these took place in a university research lab, apparently there's been no wind tunnel or waterfall tests yet.
I woudl think the auto or possibly trucking industry would be inerested if it reduces drag and increases mpg. The trucking idustry will go nuts for a lb or two reduction in vehicle weight because of the potential cost savings.
I agree that carnivorous plants are fascinating, but don't know much about them beyond the Venus flytrap. I've never actually observed them up close but think they would be quite wild to see. When I was young and first learned about them I actually was afraid they could eat me! But then again, I was a nervous child. ;)
I like to read articles where we as humans take God's technology and try to improve or use it in a new way. There are so many cool things that are out in nature right now and to advance or use them in a new way is very exciting.
VERY interesting post Ann. Several years ago I had a consulting job involved with mounting solar collectors used in a small "solar farm". It involved the base structures and motorized mechanisms to move the collectors across the horizon as the sun traveled east to west. On HUGE factor we somewhat overlooked was keeping the collector plates clean. It's amazing how much efficiency is lost due to dirty glazers. The material you describe in your post would be very effective keeping clean surfaces. I'm going to send your post to the gentleman I worked with just to keep him informed as to what might be one possible solution to the problem.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.