Wetter Report

May 1, 2008
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
A new approach to testing surface adhesion.



Wetability gradient: Water sprayed on a glass slide coated with a nanostructured gradient wetability film using the new NIST technique illustrates the transition from (A) superhydrophobicity to (C) superhydrophilicity. The lower image shows the magnified image of the (A) hydrophobic to (B) transition wetting region. The pink dotted line indicates the border of the superhydrophobic region, and the yellow dotted region shows a hydrophobic ‘sticky’ region. Photo courtesy of NIST.

With a nod to one of nature’s best surface chemists - an obscure desert beetle - polymer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a convenient way to construct test surfaces with a variable affinity for water, so that the same surface can range from superhydrophilic to superhydrophobic and everything in between. Their technique, reported in the journal Langmuir,1 may be used for rapid evaluation of paints and other materials that need to stick to surfaces.

The NIST team developed a flexible technique, based on ultraviolet light and photosensitive materials, to mimic one of nature’s cleverest feats of surface chemistry. The Stenocara beetle of Africa’s Namib Desert is able to thrive in a habitat so parched that not even the morning fog will condense. All the beetle has to do is raise its warty-looking wing covers into the breeze. Because the bumps are hydrophilic (water-attracting) while the rest of the surface is hydrophobic (water repelling), the few water molecules that do strike the wing covers tend to get pushed uphill and collect on the bumps - where they eventually condense into artificial dewdrops that roll into the insect’s mouth. The insect’s trick is to use both surface structure and chemistry to create a surface that shifts rapidly from hydrophobic to hydrophilic.

The NIST researchers began by coating the surface with a matrix of silica granules about 11 nanometers across. As with the beetle, whose wing covers are coated with organic particles about a thousand times larger, the spacing of the matrix provides a first, purely physical level of control over wetability: a water droplet placed on top of the granules can sag only a certain distance into the gaps before it is stopped by surface tension.

The researchers then added a second level of control by coating the granules with a compound that changes the water affinity, similar to how a waxy substance makes some of the beetle’s microparticles hydrophobic. This step in itself is not unique; other research groups have added such compounds to granular surfaces using electrochemical techniques. The NIST group, however, used an optical technique that is much easier to modulate, and that can be carried out in air. They simply coated the granules with a photo-sensitive material and exposed it to ultraviolet light; the longer and more intense the exposure was in a given area, the more hydrophilic that area became.

The most immediate application for this new technique is for testing of adhesives and coatings; instead of daubing the compounds on dozens of surfaces one by one, researchers can now spread them over a single surface that tests the entire range of wettability within the space of a few centimeters. Other possible applications range from water collection in dry regions to open-air microchannel devices. Indeed, the same technique can be used to create surfaces that vary in their affinity for alcohol and many other small molecule liquids.

Source: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

For more information, contact NIST at, www.nist.gov.


Links

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Adhesives & Sealants Industry Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

In-Depth Features

These articles detail advantages and innovations for multiple end uses.

Podcasts

ExxonMobil Tackifier Expansion

Dwight Tozer, vice president of ExxonMobil’s Adhesion Industry business, discusses the company’s latest tackifier expansion project with Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

More Podcasts

THE MAGAZINE

Adhesives & Sealants Industry Magazine

ASI April 2014 cover

2014 April

Our April issue focuses on pressure-sensitive adhesives, including a preview of PSTC's 2014 Tape Summit, as well as converting/packaging and composites!

Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE ADHESIVES STORE

handbook-sealant-tech.gif
Handbook of Sealant Technology

The Handbook of Sealant Technology provides an in-depth examination of sealants, reviewing their historical developments and fundamentals, adhesion theories and properties, and today’s wide range of applications.

More Products

asi1211p_Cover-DE.gifASI's Buyers' Guide

Annual purchasing resource for equipment used in the manufacture/formulation of adhesives, sealants, pressure sensitives, tapes and labels and for application of finished adhesives. 

Clear Seas Research

With access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

STAY CONNECTED

facebook_40px twitter_40  youtube_40pxlinkedin_40