From the recent progress in the development of mechanically robust superhydrophobic surfaces, we intend to establish the basis for producing durable liquid-repellent materials under severely adverse conditions. Superhydrophobic surfaces are typically identified from the observation of enhanced drop motion (low liquid adhesion): roll-off, bouncing.., and they are suitable for promoting the early removal of water, nucleating condensate, freezing water and ice. This property makes superhydrophibic materials useful for a wide series of applications ranging from snow and anti-ice products, anti-fogging windows, screens and lenses, water-repellent textiles to foils for food packaging. The current challenge in the design and preparation of superhydrophobic surfaces is twofold: cost-effective fabrication technologies and durability. Superhydrophobic surfaces exposed for prolong periods to water, UV and weathering can be significantly damaged. Given the possible damage to materials and coatings during use under extreme conditions, the mechanical durability is an essential characteristic in prolonging their service life and decreasing maintenance cost. In this proposal, we intend to exploit the developed surfaces in the context of military application.
From the physical features of nature surfaces with extreme water repellency (Lotus leaf), it is well established that a dual-scale surface roughness must be generated on the artificial surfaces. We will prepare hierarchically rough surfaces of low energy following two routes: roughening of a hydrophobic surface, and modifying a rough surface with low surface energy materials. The project proposed involves exciting multidisciplinary scientific challenges: physics, material engineering, real-life applications. We will examine contact angle hysteresis, roll-off behavior and superhydrophobicity stability of the prepared surfaces to assure their liquid repellency, their macro-/micromechanics properties to assure their functional robustness and their performance operating under realistic conditions. We are actually collaborating with Tecnimacor, Spanish manufacturer of nonstick coatings. This way, our industrial partners will directly incorporate the project results into their corresponding fields. The generated knowledge may be transferred in short term to industry (civil aeronautics and marine, automotive industry, cookware and bakeware, heritage maintenance, fabrics). We expect to create new international collaborations through specialized networks and COST actions across the European Research Area.