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Sustainable Method of Oil- and Water-Proof Coating Fabrication Inspired by Insects

oil water proof surface coating - gif

Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)’s scientists have discovered a new method of coatings to repel oil and water while maintaining high optical transparency on surfaces. 

Intrigued by insects’ adaptive features to survive in a threatening environment, the inventors, Dr. Lay Chee Leng, Ms. Man Shu Mei, and Dr. Lionel Moh, drew inspiration from insects’ hydrophobic topographical structures displayed on insects' legs, cuticles, and wings. These features significantly reduce contact with wetting surfaces and other adhesive contaminants. Some examples are microfilaments on legs of water-walking arthropods, micropillars on wings of cicadas, and microstructures with mushroom-shaped overhangs on springtails’ cuticles.

With that in mind, the technology is achieved through surface texturing complex doubly re-entrant structures and uses simple high throughput techniques of thermal imprinting that can be scaled to large surfaces. The textured coatings comprise of microstructures with an overhang that looks like the letter “T” in a serif font. This novel method also significantly minimised waste generation during the additive manufacturing process in thermal imprinting as there is no need to remove any material during fabrication. Furthermore, the microstructured coatings do not need additional chemical modifications, making the fabrication of these surfaces greener and more sustainable while maintaining high optical transparency, effective oil and water repellent properties.
As the surface is both water and oil repellent, it would be resistant to contamination such as fingerprints and dirt, and potentially self-cleaning once spray with water that would bead up and roll off, taking out the contaminants with it along the way. 

With this new coating method that IMRE’s scientists have achieved, this invention can potentially apply to self-cleaning anti-fingerprint films for electronic display panels, handrails, thumbprint scanners, and many more.