(Top left) Arrays of tapered-cone and (bottom left) cylindrical nanostructures that create superhydrophobic or water-repellant surfaces. Air pockets between the structures give rise to the hydrophobic properties. (Right) High-speed photographs of a falling water droplet on a nanostructured surface (top) before, (middle) during, and (bottom) after impact.
The extent to which nanometer-size textured, superhydrophobic coatings can withstand elevated pressures is largely determined by the geometry of the texturing. This work shows that by careful tuning of the nanoscale geometry, substantial gains in the durability and applicability of these structures for solar panels, highly robust, self-healing coatings, and anti-icing applications could be realized.
Superhydrophobic coatings repel liquids by trapping air inside microscopic surface textures. However, the resulting composite interface is prone to collapse under external pressure. Nanometer-size textures should facilitate more resilient coatings owing to geometry and confinement effects at the nanoscale.
This study uses in situ x-ray diffraction to investigate the extent to which the superhydrophobic state in arrays of ~20 nanometer-wide silicon textures with cylindrical, conical, and linear features persists under pressure. The research revealed that the upper bounds of the superhydrophobic state are reached when the liquid pressure is raised above a critical value, which depends on texture shape and size.
This infiltration is modeled quantitatively by accounting for the actual geometry of the texture and macroscopic capillary theory.
Another important finding is that the infiltration is irreversible for all but the conical surface textures, which exhibit a spontaneous, partial reappearance of the trapped gas phase upon liquid depressurization. This phenomenon appears to be influenced by the kinetics of gas-liquid exchange.
These results have profound implications for the understanding and the design of nanosized multiphase (liquid/vapor) systems, including more effective superhydrophobic coatings.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science