Earlier this year, we told you about a slippery material system developed by researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, which can start and stop liquid drops rolling down a vertical surface. The system can be tuned to change the amount of water or oil it repels, depending on its transparency.
That material system, which both infuses and coats a nonporous elastic substrate, was the next-generation version of the Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) material platform designed by the senior member of the current research team, Joanna Aizenberg, professor of materials science at Harvard's SEAS and a Wyss Institute core faculty member. SLIPS was originally inspired by the carnivorous pitcher plant, coated with an ultra-slippery surface that slides insect victims into its depths. Unlike earlier materials that repel water, SLIPS also repels oils, and resists the formation of bacterial biofilms and ice.
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)
Now that synthetic super-slippery surface has become a durable, completely transparent coating that can turn regular glass into a material that doesn't stain, resists scratches, and repairs itself. Potential applications include self-cleaning windows, stronger and scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses, medical diagnostic devices, and more durable solar panels. The team describes its work in an article (purchase or subscription only) in Nature Communications.
The new coating is just as slippery as the previous material system, but the research team has improved its transparency and durability. Aside from water and oil, it also repels wine, ketchup, and octane, as well as sticky liquids like honey.
The coating works because of its structure, a sturdy honeycomb-like formation that holds the slippery lubricant in many tiny, tightly packed cells. After liquid glass is poured on tiny spheres of polystyrene, the spheres are burned away to form the honeycomb structure. The lubricant binds to the cells to form a stable liquid film, which helps the coating clean and repair itself. Transparency is achieved due to cell diameter being smaller than the wavelength of visible light.
The research team's next steps are making the coating better able to coat curved pieces of glass and to coat plastics such as Plexiglas. Other goals include making the process manufacturable. Research was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Wyss Institute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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