Developing Successful Liquid Repellent Coatings Requires Modern Digital Solutions

Materials Studio

biovia-bubblesRecent findings on liquid repellent coatings have highlighted the promise of the technology and the challenges that must be overcome before new products can be commercialized. Image Credit: Flickr user Lee Netherton

Since 2007, materials science and engineering researchers have been exploring the ways to create superomniphobic surfaces — that is, surfaces that are highly repellent to all liquids because of a minute air gap between the solid surface and the offending liquid. Scientists have figured out how to confer this property to a wide range of materials over the last decade, but it was not until October 2016 that researchers at Colorado State University announced that they had developed a practical superomniphobic tape that could impart liquid repellent properties to almost any surface.1 Up until now, researchers in the field have relied on complicated spraying, etching and deposition techniques that require expensive equipment and toxic chemicals, and usually need to be conducted in a highly sterilized environment.2 In contrast, the new tape could be used by anyone, and it can be cut to any shape or size based on the user’s needs.

Nevertheless, improving the durability of superomniphobic surfaces remains a major challenge in the field, and a wide range of applications have yet to be fully explored. Materials scientists who are engaged in research to improve superomniphobicity technology or apply it to the real world can benefit from modern modeling software that can simplify and streamline their studies. sinopsis film

Improving the Durability of Superomniphobic Surfaces

Right now, the tape can make a solid surface extremely water-repellent, but a slight abrasion, or even the touch of a human hand, can reduce its functionality. Due to this lack of mechanical durability, the research team at Colorado State reported that they are waiting before they move forward with the commercialization of the product. Moreover, in order to maximize the applicability of the technology, it would be beneficial to enable superomniphobic surfaces to stand up against harsh chemicals and radiation in addition to mechanical damage. That way, surfaces could maintain their liquid repellent properties even when exposed to ultraviolet and infrared light, ozone or concentrated acids, bases and solvents. Some scientists have suggested using monolithic hierarchical structures instead of top-down deposition techniques, but research in this area is still ongoing.3

As research into superomniphobic coatings continues, utilizing molecular modeling software could aid efforts to improve durability. This software makes it possible for scientists to visualize coating materials and predict their properties in silico. Research groups can reap multiple benefits from this software:

  • Reducing resource investment

Using computer simulations, it is possible to test the properties of variations on different superomniphobic coatings without conducting benchtop experiments. This can cut down on the use of valuable materials that might be wasted testing a new material that turns out to be a non-starter. Instead, only the most promising coatings will be chosen for physical experiments.

  • Decreasing time to market

Since there are multiple academic and industry groups currently working to develop superomniphobic technology, companies need to streamline their R&D process if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Conducting experiments in silico can be less time-consuming than running benchtop experiments, so scientists can get test results and make further research decisions more quickly. Plus, modern software enables the creation of reusable protocols, so researchers running simulations will not have to waste time with repetitive modeling tasks.

  • Enabling information sharing

It is important for researchers within groups and across the organization to share relevant simulation protocols with each other in order to ensure the consistency of computational methods. That way, computer-based analyses of different superomniphobic coating variations can be compared to each other, no matter where the research was conducted.

Exploring Possible Applications of Liquid Repellent Coatings

Superomniphobicity technology has a wide range of industrial, commercial and scientific applications. Because coatings can repel all solutions — including organic liquids, aqueous solutions and food-grade liquids — they may be used to create self-cleaning materials, decrease drag or minimize liquid waste. In addition, a research group in Helsinki has explored the development of lightweight, superomniphobic aerogels that can float on liquids regardless of their surface tension, which  could be used as microbots for environmental sensing in aqueous environments or marine-based military reconnaissance missions.4 Other scientists are looking to use the technology to develop remotely operated oil-water separation technologies, microfluidic valves and lab-on-a-chip instruments.

As researchers consider the practical applications of liquid repellent coatings, modeling software can be used to predict the behavior of the materials in simulated environments that represent real-world application contexts. That way, they can explore the feasibility of a potential product without having to dedicate time and resources to constructing a prototype for basic testing. And, because it takes less time to run computer simulations than lab experiments, it may be possible for researchers to conduct initial research on a greater number of product options, which increases the likelihood that they will find the most marketable, effective technological application for commercial development.

BIOVIA Materials Studio is an advanced simulations package that enables materials scientists and engineers to visualize and analyze the properties of materials like superomniphobic coatings. It is also compatible with BIOVIA’s other software solutions and can be integrated with third-party programs, so it can be seamlessly deployed in any materials science lab. Contact us today to get more information about Materials Studio and our other offerings.

  1.  “Superomniphobic Tape Bestows Liquid-Repelling Properties on Any Surface,”

    October 24, 2016, http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/

    ArticleID/13483/Superomniphobic-Tape-Bestows-Liquid-Repelling-Properties-on-Any-Surface.aspx

  2. “Groundbreaking Adhesive Tape Will Repel Any Liquid You Can Think Of,”

    October 21, 2016, http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/liquid-proof-scotch-tape/

  3. “The Design and Applications of Superomniphobic Surfaces,”

    July 4, 2014, http://www.nature.com/am/journal/v6/n7/full/am201434a.html

  4.  “Superhydrophobic and Superoleophobic Nanocellulose Aerogel Membranes as Bioinspired Cargo Carriers on Water and Oil,”

    January 19, 2011, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/la103877r