Engineers at the University of Michigan have created a self-healing, water-repellent, spray-on coating developed is hundreds of times more durable than its counterparts.
The new coating could enable waterproofing of vehicles, clothing, rooftops and countless other surfaces for which current waterproofing treatments are too fragile.
It could also lower the resistance of ship hulls, a step that would reduce the fuel consumption of the massive vessels that transport 90 percent of the world’s cargo.
Thousands of superhydrophobic surfaces have been looked at over the past 20 or 30 years, but nobody has been able to figure out how to systematically design one that’s durable … I think that’s what we’ve really accomplished here, and it’s going to open the door for other researchers to create cheaper, perhaps even better superhydrophobic coatings. Anish Tuteja, U-M associate professor of materials science and engineering
Other water-repellent coatings work because their surface has a very specific geometry, often microscopic pillars. Water droplets perch on the tips of these pillars, creating air pockets underneath that deny the water a solid place to rest and cause it to roll off easily. But such surfaces tend to be fragile—slight abrasion or even the pressure of the water itself can damage them.
The team found that if a surface is slightly pliable, it can escape this pitfall—even though it seems less durable. Its pliable properties enable it to bounce back from damage.
Tuteja hopes that the coatings should be available for use before the end of 2017.