"Not only is our bio-inspired surface able to work in a variety of conditions, but it is also simple and cheap to manufacture," says co-author Sung Hoon Kang, a Ph.D. candidate in the Aizenberg lab. "It is easily scalable because you can choose just about any porous material and a variety of liquids."
To see if the surface was truly up to nature's high standards, they even did a few experiments with ants. In tests, the insects slid off the artificial surface or retreated to safer ground after only a few timorous steps.
The researchers anticipate that the pitcher plant-inspired technology, for which they are seeking a patent, could one day be used for fuel- and water-transport pipes, and medical tubing (such as catheters and blood transfusion systems), which are sensitive to drag and pressure and are compromised by unwanted liquid-surface interactions. Other potential applications include self-cleaning windows and surfaces that resist bacteria and other types of fouling (such as the buildup that forms on ship hulls). The advance may also find applications in ice-resistant materials and may lead to anti-sticking surfaces that repel fingerprints or graffiti.
"The versatility of SLIPS, their robustness and unique ability to self-heal makes it possible to design these surfaces for use almost anywhere, even under extreme temperature and pressure conditions," says Aizenberg. "It potentially opens up applications in harsh environments, such as polar or deep sea exploration, where no satisfactory solutions exist at present. Everything SLIPS!"
|Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter|