Multifunctional Coatings Repelling Contaminants From Ice to Bacteria

ice phobic coatings
Fluorescence microscopy images showing the absence of Escherichia coli biofilm growth and attachment on multifunctional gel-coated smartwatch face compared to a contaminated control surface. 

From miniature camera lenses to colossal passenger aircraft, many of the demanding applications that support modern life rely on products that keep them functional in different and sometimes extreme weather conditions. For example, in frigid winters, frost can be hazardous for airplanes’ operational safety, which can wreak havoc from delayed flights to dangerous accidents. Most techniques to prevent frost and ice formation on surfaces in cold conditions rely heavily on the use of liquid deicing chemicals that need to be applied in gallons and often repeatedly because they get quickly depleted.

The latest research by scientists from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) addresses this burning issue whereby they have devised a wide array of more than eighty formulations that can keep contaminants ranging from disease causing bacteria to frost off functional surfaces, trumping conventional coatings by at least an order of magnitude.

The developed coatings function on a principle of leveraging certain thermoresponsive properties, by virtue of which they can create an in situ slippery surface layer. This surface hydration layer acts as a protective barrier and prevents harmful substances from coming in direct contact with the base substrate, thus making it harder for any foulant accumulation to get a grip on the surface.

The coatings are multifunctional by design. For example, the same coating can prevent the battery of your smartwatch from dying in the frigid winter while simultaneously preventing any bacterial contamination on it.

Having applied for a worldwide patent application titled “Compositions and Methods for Inhibiting Ice Formation on Surfaces”, the researchers plan on commercializing their technology in the recent future for versatile applications in transportation systems (planes, cars, and marine ships), energy systems and consumer electronics.

Further information can be found here: A Family of Frost-Resistant and Icephobic Coatings, Rukmava Chatterjee, Hassan Bararnia, Sushant Anand,  https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202109930

Administration of the project

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