21-Dec-2011

Nature inspires self-cleaning surfaces

Abstract

A coating that resists liquids could result in future development of novel antibacterial or even self-cleaning surfaces. The bio-inspired liquid repellence technology, which creates slippery surfaces by infusing a nano/microstructured porous material with a lubricating fluid, could find applications in biomedical fluid handling, antifouling, fuel transport and anti-icing technologies.

Schematic showing the manufacture of Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface (SLIPS)
Credit: Peter Allen and James C. Weaver

Harvard researchers have developed a bio-inspired coating that resists liquids and could see future development of novel antibacterial surfaces

The pitcher plant is an example of natureís ingenuity. Sweet-smelling, the carnivorous plant attracts insects to land on its cupped leaf, which following rain becomes a virtually frictionless surface, ensuring the insects slide to their doom. By adapting the plantís slick strategy, a group of scientists at Harvard have created a material that repels just about any type of liquid, including blood and oil, and does so even under harsh conditions such as high pressure and freezing temperatures.

The bio-inspired liquid repellence technology, described in the 22 September 2011 issue of Nature, could find applications in biomedical fluid handling, antifouling, fuel transport and anti-icing technologies. It could even lead to self-cleaning surfaces.

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