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Monday, 17 February 2020

Hydrophopic and lipophobic – at the same time?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 | Posted by: Michael Richter, European Coatings Journal

Sounds strange, right? But it already became reality! Normally you would expect that these features are mutually exclusive, but in fact at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers are enthusiastically working on this topic.

In my opinion they should be enthusiastic like this, as the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) just granted EUR 2.85 million for the next four years. This is the amount of money you will get, if you successfully participate in NanoMatFutur – a competition for young researchers in Germany.

Application relevant polymer research

This is exactly what the junior research group’s head Dr. Bastian Rapp from the Institute of Microstructure Technology (IMT) and his co-workers could achieve with their project "Fluoropor – chemical inert, micro- to nanoporous ´Teflon` with adjustable wetting behaviour”.
"Fluoropor” is a new material which prevents water and oil at the same time to stick to a surface. This behaviour reminds me of two things. On the one hand, it reminds me of the well-known lotus effect, which is in technical use for some time now. Thanks to a microrough surface, water droplets just roll of a surface. On the other hand, I have to think of my pan at home. Due to the treatment of my pan with the fluoropolymer "Teflon”, meals can´t stick to the pan´s surface anymore. This practical feature makes washing the dishes pretty easy but in contrast to the the lotus effect this characteristic bases on the chemical nature of the coating.

Turn two into one

Rapp´s smart approach was to combine the chemical features of fluoropolymers with the mechanical roughness of lotus leaves. In his laboratory he was already able to manufacture a superrepellent surface but unfortunately it was not stable enough against mechanical stress and abrasion in particular.
A problem, which he and co-workers from similar disciplines want to solve in the near future. Robustness is an important criterion, to make industrial applications possible. This is why BMBF grant is very convenient at the moment, in order to finance basic research aimed at applicability. 
I am curious when industry will become aware of this idea. Additionally I am curious where we will hopefully find this technology in our daily life and how this will make things easier.

Now it’s your turn!

What is your opinion? Do you have any suggestions or ideas?
I am looking forward to your comments and an interesting discussion!

Kind regards
Michael Richter

Reference (only available in German):

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Michael Richter
European Coatings Journal
Michael Richter
Scientific Consultant
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