Researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) have discovered a new coating solution that can transform regular materials into waterproof surfaces. This new solution is expected to be up to 90 percent cheaper to produce, free of harmful fluorinated compounds, and effective on a variety of materials.
The findings from this research project led by SFU chemistry professor Hogan Yu were published in Nature Communications. According to SFU, Yu and his team are currently in discussions with investors and companies to commercialize their patented waterproofing solution.
The new formula was first invented in 2016, when SFU graduate student Lishen Zhang and another student worked on an experiment in Yu’s lab. The student used a reagent that had been left open for a few days, which to Yu’s surprise had generated waterproof surfaces.
“At the time we believed the extended air exposure led to the degradation of the reagent, which inspired Lishen to explore an unconventional reaction that is now critical to our coating technology,” he says.
Yu and his team have spent the past five years testing and refining the coating formula, which is based on a combination of organosilanes, water, and an industrial solvent. Tests revealed that surfaces treated with the coating, including fabric, glass, wood, and metal, remain waterproof for at least 18 months. Further testing is underway to determine coating performance over an extended period or under harsh physical conditions.
The effectiveness of the coating was examined through contact angle tests that measure the wettability of a surface or material. On a water-repellant (i.e., hydrophobic) surface, a droplet will remain spherical and slide instead of sinking into and clinging to the surface. Yu’s team found that their coating has the highest water contact angles when compared with a variety of branded commercial products.
Aside from its waterproofing capabilities, the team’s new formula may have additional applications as an antifouling, stain-resistant coating for iron or steel, an anti-icing and water-repelling paint for building construction, or as an efficient membrane for water-oil separation.
“Since the method to produce this waterproofing solution is simple and low-cost, the production can also be easily scaled up for industrial and commercial applications,” says Yu.
“This product shows excellent properties in terms of waterproofing, convenience, cost and robustness, and it’s also environmentally-friendly,” he adds. “We believe this product could help improve people’s lives in a number of ways, such as keeping us dry and comfortable on rainy days, which are common on the West Coast where we love to live.”
Source: SFU News, https://www.sfu.ca.