Superomniphobic Surface : A Material that Most Liquids Won’t Wet

To apply the coating, the researchers use a technique called electrospinning that uses an electric charge to create fine particles of solid from a liquid solution. So far, they’ve coated small tiles of screen and postage-stamp-sized swaths of fabric. The coating is a mixture of rubbery plastic particles of “polydimethylsil-oxane,” or PDMS, and liquid-resisting nanoscale cubes developed by the Air Force that contain carbon, fluorine, silicon and oxygen. The material’s chemistry is important, but so is its texture. It hugs the pore structure of whatever surface it’s being applied to, and it also creates a finer web within those pores. This structure means that between 95 and 99 percent of the coating is actually air pockets, so any liquid that comes in contact with the coating is barely touching a solid surface.

A breakthrough that could have big implications for everything from stain-free clothing to protective surface coatings and chemical resistant protective suits: a super-omniphobic coating that is resistant to pretty much any liquid we know of.
A breakthrough that could have big implications for everything from stain-free clothing to protective surface coatings and chemical resistant protective suits: a super-omniphobic coating that is resistant to pretty much any liquid we know of.
Superomniphobic surfaces display contact angles >150° and low contact angle hysteresis with essentially all contacting liquids. In this work, we report surfaces that display superomniphobicity with a range of different non-Newtonian liquids, in addition to superomniphobicity with a wide range of Newtonian liquids. Our surfaces possess hierarchical scales of re-entrant texture that significantly reduce the solid–liquid contact area. Virtually all liquids including concentrated organic and inorganic acids, bases, and solvents, as well as viscoelastic polymer solutions, can easily roll off and bounce on our surfaces. Consequently, they serve as effective chemical shields against virtually all liquids—organic or inorganic, polar or nonpolar, Newtonian or non-Newtonian.
Superomniphobic surfaces display contact angles >150° and low contact angle hysteresis with essentially all contacting liquids. In this work, we report surfaces that display superomniphobicity with a range of different non-Newtonian liquids, in addition to superomniphobicity with a wide range of Newtonian liquids. Our surfaces possess hierarchical scales of re-entrant texture that significantly reduce the solid–liquid contact area. Virtually all liquids including concentrated organic and inorganic acids, bases, and solvents, as well as viscoelastic polymer solutions, can easily roll off and bounce on our surfaces. Consequently, they serve as effective chemical shields against virtually all liquids—organic or inorganic, polar or nonpolar, Newtonian or non-Newtonian.

Because the liquid touches mere filaments of the solid surface, as opposed to a greater area, the developed coating can dramatically reduce the intermolecular forces that normally draw the two states of matter together. These Van der Waals interaction forces are kept at a minimum.

“Normally, when the two materials get close, they imbue a small positive or negative charge on each other, and as soon as the liquid comes in contact with the solid surface it will start to spread,” Tuteja said. “We’ve drastically reduced the interaction between the surface and the droplet.”

With almost no incentive to spread, the droplets stay intact, interacting only with molecules of themselves, maintaining a spherical shape, and literally bouncing off the coating.

A high-speed camera captures a droplet resting on the surface of a new super-repellant surface
A high-speed camera captures a droplet resting on the surface of a new super-repellant surface

One classification of liquid that this coating repels is the so-called non-Newtonian category, which includes shampoos, custards, blood, paints, clays and printer inks, for example. These are liquids that change their viscosity depending on the forces applied to them. They differ from the Newtonians, such as water and most other liquids, whose viscosity stays the same no matter the force applied. Viscosity is a measure of a liquid’s resistance to flow on the application of force, and it’s sometimes thought of as its thickness.

“No one’s ever demonstrated the bouncing of low surface tension non-Newtonian liquids,” Tuteja said.

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