I-Corps: Super-slick Coatings for the Handling of Viscous Fluids in Extreme Environments
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The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project derives from the anticipated reduction of energy consumption and cleaning expenditures incurred by any industry dealing with the handling of viscous liquids. The technology that is the focus of this project is a thin-film coating that is repellant to both water and oil and can withstand high temperatures. Such coatings are expected to find broad applicability in oil tankers, railcars, and trucks used to transport viscous fuels. The coatings will bring end-users considerable benefits in terms of reduced cleaning and repair costs while enabling improved energy efficiency and reducing the volume of fluids discarded during transportation. The technology is further of relevance to the design of nozzles for additive manufacturing, the processing of nuclear waste streams, and the robotic handling of specialty chemicals. In all of these applications, the coating will allow for viscous fluids to be delivered without adhesion and contamination of surfaces and with the added benefit of protecting the underlying substrate from corrosion. Benefits to society will include more efficient fuel utilization and reduced exposure of workers to potentially hazardous substances.This I-Corps project is based on research that has led to the development of thermally robust and highly textured coatings that readily glide both water and viscous oil droplets. Nature has an abundance of surfaces that are not wetted by water droplets (e.g., lotus leaves or shark skin); however, surfaces that are not wetted by low-surface-tension liquids, such as oils, do not exist in nature. This project is based on coatings that in laboratory tests are not wetted by either oil or water. The extreme non-wettability of these surfaces derives from the creation of thermally robust three-dimensional texturation spanning multiple length scales within ultra-thin metal or ceramic films, which gives rise to an interconnected network of trapped air pockets. Grafting molecules with intrinsically low wettability onto the surfaces of porous films yields extended surfaces that are non-wettable by water or oil.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.