A research team from the University of Central Florida recently developed a new water-repellent material inspired by nature and the evolution of some plants and biological species.
A Nano Magazine report said that aside from water-repelling capability, this new invention of the research team can also stay dry even when it is submerged underwater.
Such a finding could open the door to creating more efficient water-repellent surfaces, electronic sensors, and fuel cells for the detection of toxins.
UFC's NanoScience Technology Center professor Debashis Chanda led the group that developed these novel superhydrophobic films and coating using nanomaterials.
Commenting on their findings of the study published in Advanced Materials, Chanda said that being hydrophobicity or water repellent is the tool of nature to shield and self-clean plants and animals from pathogens such as the growth of algae and fungi and accumulation of dirt.
He added, they took their hints from the lotus leaf's structure and synthesized nanostructured materials according to molecular crystals of fullerenes.
Essentially, fullerenes, C60 and C70, according to Phys.org, are developed through the building of carbon molecules, the universe's basic building block.
Carbon comes in various forms. In certain conditions, 60 or 70 such carbon molecules can bond together to form a close structure similar to a cage.
Such a structure is called fullerenes—specifically, these cages heap or pile on each other to form tall crystals, also known as fullerites.
By placing a drop of a gel produced from fullerites on any surface, a so-called "super water-repellant state" is stimulated, explained Chanda.
The gel's distinctive cave-like structure does not interfere with the original material that's being treated. Meaning they preserve their unique, useful properties.
This would also mean the new surface has the potential to be used for splitting not just water but also for bacterial disinfection, hydrogen generation, or electrocatalysis, all of which, this report specified, can be produced in fluid environments.
New Gel for more Efficient Fuel Cells
According to Chanda, the new gel, for example, is making electrocatalysis easier, resulting in more efficient fuel cells.
This same gel, he continued, can result in better electron receptors, which are key in the development of highly sensitive sensors and detectors for toxic gasses. Chanda also said that there is a lot of promise with this finding, and it is certainly exciting.
Most of the hydrophobic surfaces reported in the past have been achieved by designing microscopic patterns that encompass multifaceted lithography or etching processes that cannot be done on all surfaces.
Furthermore, not all hydrophobic surfaces developed before staying dry when submerged underwater for more than a few minutes at a certain depth of water.
Potential of the Water Repellent Nanomaterial
The team's leader explained they discovered that fullerite films exhibit extreme water repellency no matter the direction of the water flow and even under continual water flow over them.
He elaborated that the films stay dry even when they are immersed at two feet of water for several hours. They even discovered that they caught and stored gasses underwater in a plastron form, a type of trapped bubbles emulating the "miraculous alkali fly" of the Mono Lake of California, as described in the Daily Democrat.
Meanwhile, post-doctoral fellow Rinku Saran in the lab of Chanda and the study's lead author said he is excited about the water repellent nanomaterial's potential.
He added, since these superhydrophobic surfaces are developed in a very facile and simple process through the use of pure carbon fullerenes, the team anticipates they can be used in numerous experiments, as well as real-life applications.
Related report about Fullerene C60 is shown on Right Vision's YouTube video below:
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