A team of scientists have taken inspiration from nature to develop a new material that can be painted onto surfaces and keep them wet or dry, while never needing to be cleaned.
The experimental new coating is made from clusters of spherical nanoparticles, bound together in such a way that they resemble raspberries. Depending on the particles which make up the coating, its properties can be tweaked: fluorinated polymers provide highly water repellent surfaces, while charged particles allow them to soak up water.
The research, published in Chemistry of Materials, was inspired by the surface of rose petals, which encourage water to bead up into balls. Dr Andrew Telford, the lead researcher from the University of Sydney, explains the potential:
"[W]e will be able to design surfaces that do whatever you need them to do. We could design a surface that stays dry forever, never needs cleaning, can repel bacteria and even prevent mould and fungi growth. This could be used on quick-dry walls and roofs and would also help to cool down houses through evaporation."
But the possibilities don't stop there. The researchers suggest that these kinds of coatings could be used to reduce condensation in aircraft cabins, or to make medical apparatus that can be safely used outside of labs or operating theater. Not bad for a bunch of tiny little raspberries inspired by flowers. [Chemistry of Materials via ABC]