grimy window

‘Everything repellent’ coating could keep home surfaces ultra-clean

Image credit: Dreamstime

Materials scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a clear, durable coating capable of repelling water, oil, alcohol and just about every other known liquid.

Previously, researchers led by Professor Anish Tuteja had produced durable coatings capable of repelling ice and water, as well as a fragile ‘everything repellent’ (omniphobic) coating. This latest development, however, is the first omniphobic coating which is also durable and clear.

The researchers took an atypical approach, where they began by mapping out the fundamental properties of a huge number of substances. Using this information, they were able to predict how any combination of substances will behave, and therefore produce materials with well-tailored properties.

“In the past, researchers might have taken a very durable substance and a very repellent substance and mixed them together,” said Tuteja. “But this doesn’t necessarily yield a durable, repellent coating.”

The researchers focused their attentions on a property called ‘partial miscibility’: the ability of two substances to combine in precisely the right way. Miscible chemicals can combine to form more durable products, even if they are less durable while separate.

The researchers found that combining fluorinated polyurethane with a fluid-repellent molecule (F-POSS) formed a mixture that can be securely sprayed, brushed, dipped or spin-coated onto almost any surface.

According to the researchers, the new coating could prevent everyday surfaces from becoming grimy, not just in industry but also in domestic settings. It could be used in refrigeration, power generation and oil refining – all of which are industries depending on the condensation of liquids – as well as on screens, countertops, camera lenses and other consumer items.

“I have a two-year-old at home, so for me this particular project was about more than just the science,” said Tuteja.

“We’re excited about what this could do to make homes and daycares cleaner places, and we’re looking at a variety of possible applications in industry as well.”

The University of Michigan team are carrying out further studies to ensure that the coating is non-toxic, such that it can be used to childproof homes and daycare centres. Due to one ingredient being inexpensive already and the other likely to become more accessible in the future, Tuteja believes that the coating could prove an affordable product on the mass market.

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