Tag Archives: coating

A coat against our troubles: new compound can transform air filters into pathogen-killing machines

A joint research venture between the University of Birmingham and private firms NitroPep Ltd and Pullman AC has produced air filters that are highly effective at killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including the SARS-CoV 2 virus, the infamous coronavirus.

Image via Pixabay.

The secret of these filters’ effectiveness is a chemical called chlorhexidine digluconate (CHDG). This is a potent biocide that can kill pathogens within seconds of coming into contact with them. Air filters coated in this substance can prove to be a powerful tool against airborne pathogens around the world, according to the researchers that designed them.

Removing the gunk

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront of public consciousness the real need for new ways to control the spread of airborne respiratory pathogens. In crowded spaces, from offices to large indoor venues, shopping malls, and on public transport, there is an incredibly high potential for transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses such as flu,” says Dr. Felicity de Cogan, Royal Academy of Engineering Industry Fellow at the University of Birmingham, and corresponding author of the paper.

“Most ventilation systems recycle air through the system, and the filters currently being used in these systems are not normally designed to prevent the spread of pathogens, only to block air particles. This means filters can actually act as a potential reservoir for harmful pathogens. We are excited that we have been able to develop a filter treatment which can kill bacteria, fungi and viruses—including SARS-CoV-2—in seconds. This addresses a global un-met need and could help clean the air in enclosed spaces, helping to prevent the spread of respiratory disease.”

The filters were tested in both laboratory and real-life conditions to determine how effective they were at removing air-borne pathogens, and the results are stellar.

In the lab, the filters were covered with viral particles of the Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV-2, alongside control filters. They were then checked periodically over a period of more than one hour to see how these pathogens fared. While much of the initial quantity of viral particles remained on the surface of the control filters for the experiment’s length, all SARS-CoV-2 cells were destroyed within 60 seconds on the treated filters.

Experiments involving bacteria and fungi that commonly cause illness in humans — such as E. coli, S. aureus, and C. albicans— yielded similar results. This showcases the wide applicability of the filters.

To determine how well these fitlers would perform in real-life situations, treated filters were installed in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems on train carriages in the UK alongside control filters in matched pairs on the same train line. These were left to operate for three months before being removed and sent to the lab for analysis — which involved the researchers counting any bacteria colonies that survived on the filters.

No pathogens were found on the treated filters, the team explains. Furthermore, this step showed that the treatment was durable enough to withstand three months of real-world use while maintaining their structure, filtration functions, and anti-pathogen abilities.

“The technology we have developed can be applied to existing filters and can be used in existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with no need for the cost or hassle of any modifications,” Dr. de Cogan explains. “This level of compatibility with existing systems removes many of the barriers encountered when new technologies are brought onto the market.”

NitroPep Ltd is now building on these findings in order to deliver a final marketable version of the coating.

The paper “Efficacy of antimicrobial and anti-viral coated air filters to prevent the spread of airborne pathogens” has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Spray-on treatment could keep roads strong for longer while also making cities cooler

Is the heat getting you down? Most people can empathize. Enough of them, in fact, that one company is piloting a new asphalt treatment meant to reduce temperatures and eliminate pollutant particles, all while helping to keep roadways in good condition.

Image credits Maxx Girr.

The compound’s exact makeup is, as you’d expect, still a company secret. But we do know that it is based on titanium dioxide and meant to be sprayed over asphalt surfaces in cities struggling with the urban heat island effect. Although it does help reduce overall temperatures by making built surfaces absorb less heat, the treatment — named A.R.A.-1 TI — is marketed as a “road rejuvenator” and a seal for roadways.

Spray the heat away

The company behind this treatment, Pavement Technology Inc., is collaborating with Texas A&M University to measure its efficiency. This process involves sending road cores (samples retrieved from treated roadways) and air quality measurements to the university’s labs in order to determine what effect the treatment has in real-life situations.

But if the theory translates to practice, it should definitely help cool cities down. The source of the urban heat island effect is sunlight, which carries energy in the form of heat to asphalt and concrete surfaces, such as roads and buildings. These are very good at heating up, which makes everything that much more unbearable during the day (because you’re now standing, on a hot day, in a mile-wide hot surface). At night, these surfaces cede heat back into the environment, keeping the night’s air from cooling down. The more buildings there are in the city, the taller they are, and the more densely-packed, the more heat will be captured, and cities can be between 1 to 7 degrees F (0.6 to 3.4 degrees C) warmer than the areas around them.

All in all, a terrible experience for everyone involved.

Titanium dioxide is more commonly known as titanium white. Chances are that most white things you’ve ever encountered in your life, apart from foods, were painted using titanium white as a pigment. The plan is for this substance, which reflects incoming sunlight, to have a cooling effect on the dark surface of asphalt, which absorbs a lot of heat during the day. We’ve seen previously how green spaces can help reduce the intensity of the urban heat island effect by blocking sunlight; this treatment can be seen as a complementary to greenery, in that it helps reflect part of the sunlight that isn’t blocked by plants such as trees.

The titanium dioxide in the spray scatters and absorbs both visible light and ultraviolet rays — which makes it a popular component in sunscreens — but it also starts a chemical reaction in the presence of light which oxidizes and breaks down pollutants. Although it’s still in the pilot phase so the figures aren’t final yet, Pavement Technologies says its treatment so far has reduced levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 30% to 40% in areas where it’s being trialed. One mile of roadway sprayed with this treatment has the same pollution-eating effect as 20 acres of trees, the company further claims.

The compound is being tested in three regions in Charleston County as of April 2021.

Still, its main intended role is to keep roads working for longer. The spray works by replacing compounds known as maltenes in old asphalt. Maltenes are found in bitumen, the black, oily fraction of asphalt, and they’re what gives fresh asphalt its bouncy, flexible nature. Over time, however, they degrade, and the material becomes brittle, cracking under strain.

Graphene protective coatings could improve hard disk data storage potential ten-fold

A paper published by researchers at the Cambridge Graphene Center, in collaboration with an international team, might change the way your PC stores data forever — or, at least, for a while!

An “opened, old hard disk drive”. Image credits Norlando Pobre / Flickr.

Are you looking for a storage upgrade on your device? Thinking of trading ye olde hard disk drive (HDD) for the sleeker, cooler, faster, solid-state drive (SSD)? I can completely empathize. But fear not! The HDD is getting an upgrade in graphene form, according to a new paper, which should increase the amount of data they can store tenfold (compared to currently available technology).

The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Exeter, India, Switzerland, Singapore, and the US.

Hard graphene drive

“Demonstrating that graphene can serve as a protective coating for conventional hard disk drives and that it is able to withstand HAMR conditions is a very important result. This will further push the development of novel high areal density hard disk drives,” said Dr. Anna Ott from the Cambridge Graphene Center, one of the co-authors of this study.

HDDs were first introduced in the 1950s, but they wouldn’t have a meaningful impact on personal computers until the 1980s, mostly due to cost and complexity of manufacture. Since then, however, they have been a game-changer: HDDs can store much more data in a smaller package than any medium before them. In later years, SSDs have become the more popular choice for mobile devices due to their greater speed and more compact size, but HDDs still offer greater data density at a low cost, and are still the preferred choice of storage medium for desktop computers.

There are two main components that make up an HDD: the platters, and a head, mounted on a mobile arm. Data is stored on the platters, written there by the magnetic head as the platters spin rapidly. The head is also what reads data off the platters. The sound you can maybe hear coming from your PC as it tries to access something in its memory are these parts in motion inside the HDD. More modern drives leave less and less room between these parts, in order to save on space.

Still, a key part of the HDD’s design is to keep the platters from being damaged, either from mechanical shock or chemical corrosion. Our current way of doing this — carbon-based overcoats (the unfortunately shortened ‘COCs’) — occupy very little space. Today they’re around 3nm thick, but they used to be 12.5nm thick or more in the 1990s. This thinning of the COCs has helped increase the HDDs’ overall data density to about one terabyte per square inch of platter. The new graphene coatings could increase this extra storage space tenfold.

The team replaced commercial-grade COCs with between one to four layers of graphene, and then tested their resilience against friction, wear, corrosion, as well as their thermal stability and compatibility with current lubricants. Apart from being much thinner, these layers fulfil the same job as current COC materials, the team explains, having ideal properties in all the analyzed categories. They’re actually better at corrosion resistance and two times better at friction reduction than our best COC options right now.

Additionally, the graphene layers were compatible with Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), a technique that allows more data to be stored on the HDD by heating up the platter. Current COC materials do not perform well at these high temperatures, the authors add.

An iron-platinum platter was used for the study. The team estimates that such a disk, coupled with the graphene coatings and HAMR technology could lead to potential data densities of over 10 terabytes per square inch of platter.

“This work showcases the excellent mechanical, corrosion and wear resistance properties of graphene for ultra-high storage density magnetic media. Considering that in 2020, around 1 billion terabytes of fresh HDD storage was produced, these results indicate a route for mass application of graphene in cutting-edge technologies,” says Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Center, and co-author of the study.

The paper “Graphene overcoats for ultra-high storage density magnetic media” has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

New coating removes 99.9% of all coronavirus on it in an hour — may soon find its ways to public spaces

The coronavirus pandemic has made it so that we all think twice before touching any surface in a public space. But new research at Virginia Tech aims to make it safe to touch stuff yet again.

A cross section of the coating seen under the electron microscope.
Image credits Saeed Behzadinasab et al., (2020), ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces.

The team has developed a new coating that can be applied to common surfaces that see heavy use such as doorknobs, light switches, or shopping carts. This coating then quickly inactivates any viral SARS-CoV-2 particle that lands on it, preventing its spread.

Such a coating can be helpful both in public and in our homes, as the coronavirus has been shown to contaminate the living space of infected individuals.

Safe to touch

“Everybody is worried about touching objects that may have the coronavirus,” says William Ducker, a chemical engineering professor at Virginia Tech, who led the research. “It would help people to relax a little bit.”

“The idea is when the droplets land on a solid object, the virus within the droplets will be inactivated.”

The virus’ ability to live on various surfaces for long stretches of time creates opportunities for it to spread in society through contact with objects we touch every day.

Ducker has worked on developing coatings that kill bacteria in the past. He started working on this new, virus-killing coating in March, after he went on a walk with his wife who questioned whether she should sit on a bench during the pandemic. The idea behind the coating is to destroy or prevent any coronavirus particles it comes into contact with from infecting other people.

Lab tests of the coating have produced extremely good results, Ducker reports. When applied to glass or stainless steel, it removed 99.9% of viral particles in a single hour (compared to an uncoated sample). Shorter tests, meant to determine the coating’s efficiency for intervals of under one hour, are ongoing, he adds. Ducker is confident that the coating can inactivate the virus within minutes.

Lab tests also showed that this coating is robust and doesn’t peel off after slashing with a razor blade. It also remains efficient after repeated exposures to the virus, disinfectant, or after being submerged in water for a week. Such mechanical properties are important if the coating is to be widely used on surfaces in public spaces.

“It was an interesting experience,” Ducker said. “Almost the entire campus was shut down, and we were like ghosts wandering the empty halls of Goodwin Hall.”

“But it was very exciting to have such a clear goal. I know that it was a difficult time for many people who were bored, unhappy, or scared. We were just focused on making a coating.”

The coating, by itself, won’t end the pandemic. No matter how effective it is, it can’t substitute for masks, hand washing, or maintaining physical distance. But it could help put us more at ease in public spaces, Ducker says, being “both practical and reducing fear.”

We’re still quite a way away from seeing this coating in our cities. Ducker and his team are now busy searching for funding to get it mass-produced.

The paper “A Surface Coating that Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2” has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Volcano-dwelling beetle inspires new ‘passive cooling’ material

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, alongside scientists from China and Sweden, have created a new material that passively cools itself down.

A Longicorn Beetle.
Image credits Flickr / patrickkavanagh.

The material was inspired by the wing structure of a longicorn beetle species native to volcanic areas in Southeast Asia. The beetles rely on self-cooling tissues to allow them to live in such inhospitable places.

Cool new materials

“Anywhere that needs cooling, this can help,” said Yuebing Zheng, an associate professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Refrigerators, air conditioners and other methods consume large amounts of energy, but this is cooling by itself.”

While the insect uses its body’s ability to regulate heat and gain access to an environment its competitors can’t live in, the researchers plan to use the new material it inspired to help cool everything from buildings to electronic devices in an environmentally friendly manner.

The researchers first had to determine what gave the beetle (Neocerambyx Gigas, one of 26,000 species of longhorn beetle) its cooling capability. They discovered that their wings are covered in triangular “fluffs” that disperse body heat while also reflecting sunlight.

The team then created a new “photonic film” based on these structures. This film is constructed from common, flexible material (PDMS polymer), and the team explains that it is mechanically strong enough for wide-spread use and easy to manufacture.

The film is applied as a coating on objects and can help decrease temperatures in spaces, buildings, appliances, or electronics without expending energy to do so. In lab tests, it was able to reduce the temperature of items in direct sunlight by up to a respectable 5.1 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit).

It could be put over windows in office spaces or apartment buildings to reflect incoming sunlight, and thus keep temperatures down. It can also be used to protect solar panels from sunlight-induced degradation, or to keep cars cool while parked. In the long run, it could even be used with clothing and personal electronics, the researchers hope.

The paper “Biologically inspired flexible photonic films for efficient passive radiative cooling” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New coating could improve medical gear by making the coronavirus slide right off

New research at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering has created a textile material that can repel liquids such as blood or saliva and prevent viruses from adhering, to boot.

An illustration of the new coating in action textile’s ability to repel fluids. Credit: University of Pittsburgh

The team hopes that their work can lead the way to improved personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gowns to keep both doctors and patients safe.

Keeping the bugs out

“Recently there’s been focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” said Anthony Galante, a Ph.D. student in industrial engineering at Pitt and lead author of the paper. “We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”

PPE is at a premium throughout the world right now, but our current gear isn’t the best it could be. The textiles used in gowns and other similar material does eventually soak up viruses and bacteria, and spreads them as medical personnel go about their work.

The material created at the LAMP Lab should provide better viral insulation than currently-available textiles, while also allowing for medical equipment to be used for longer because it doesn’t soak up pathogens — which will also help with shortages.

The coating they developed is resistant to ultrasonic washing, scrubbing, and scraping, so it doesn’t lose efficiency when worn or cleaned. Other similar coatings that are available today aren’t resistant in the same way, which limits their lifetime.

“The durability is very important because there are other surface treatments out there, but they’re limited to disposable textiles. You can only use a gown or mask once before disposing of it,” said Paul Leu, co-author and associate professor of industrial engineering, who leads the LAMP Lab.

“Given the PPE shortage, there is a need for coatings that can be applied to reusable medical textiles that can be properly washed and sanitized.”

The team tested their coating through tens of ultrasonic washing cycles, thousands of rotations with a scrubbing pad, and scrapings with a razor blade, and reported that the material remained just as effective after every test.

Then they examined how efficiently it can repel human adenoviruses 4 and 7, which cause acute respiratory disease and conjunctivitis — and it successfully prevented these from adhering to the textile, as well.

“Adenovirus can be inadvertently picked up in hospital waiting rooms and from contaminated surfaces in general. It is rapidly spread in schools and homes and has an enormous impact on quality of life—keeping kids out of school and parents out of work,” said Robert Shanks, the Director of Basic Research at the Charles T. Campbell Microbiology Laboratory, who collaborated on the research.

“This coating on waiting room furniture, for example, could be a major step towards reducing this problem.”

Although the findings so far are encouraging, the team has yet to test their coating against the coronavirus, but they say that this is the next step in their research.

The coating is applied using drop-casting, a method that saturates the material with a solution from a syringe and applies a heat treatment to increase stability. The team is also working on adapting it for use through spraying or dipping to enable its use for mass-production of larger items such as gowns.

The paper “Superhemophobic and Antivirofouling Coating for Mechanically Durable and Wash-Stable Medical Textiles,” has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Hong Kong researchers say they’ve developed an antiviral coating that lasts for 90 days

The coating has been under development for 10 years, it lasts for 90 days, and a 50 ml bottle would cost around $9.

The antiviral coating could be used on commonly-used surfaces such as elevator buttons, door handles, school benches, or ATMs. Image credits: Jason Dent.

The coating, called MAP-1, can be sprayed on multiple types of surfaces, including surfaces which are often used by the public, such as elevator buttons and handrails, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) say.

“These places are frequently touched, and, at the same time, serve as a very effective medium for transmission of diseases,” said HKUST Adjunct Professor Joseph Kwan, one of the chief researchers in the team that developed the product.

The coating is non-toxic for humans and the environment and has already been approved for mass consumption. The antiviral coating is expected to hit the shelves next month.

Unlike common disinfectants, this coating lasts for up to 90 days, and MAP-1 is also boosted by heat-sensitive polymers that release disinfectants when touched by humans, Kwan explains.

The coating underwent clinical tests at a Hong Kong hospital and a home for the elderly, where it proved to be efficient.

The coating is already being used against the novel coronavirus. With the help of a local charity, the non-toxic coating was sprayed in the homes of more than a thousand low-income families in the city, to help protect them against COVID-19

“I feel like it has strengthened our protection against the virus,” said Law Ha-yu, a mother of two who lives in a 110-square-foot subdivided unit that was recently sprayed with the coating.

The coating is also not very expensive. Applying the coating at an entire school would cost between HK$20,000 ($2,600) to HK$50,000, depending on the size of the sprayed area. The company also announced that smaller bottles of 50ml and 200ml will be introduced for domestic use, with prices ranging from HK$70-250 — a price that will be accessible to most households.

Hong Kong has been exemplary in its management of the coronavirus situation, completely flattening the curve and reporting only a couple of new cases for the past few days. In total, Hong Kong has had 1,038 infections despite having one of the earliest outbreaks.

Chocolate-inspired technique helps researchers develop better polymer shells

For centuries, chocolatiers have been trying to develop the perfect chocolate coating for bonbons, honing their skill to the point of artistic performance. But scientists believe they can take things even further. A group of MIT researchers believe they’ve come up with the perfect chocolate coating technique, a technique that could have many applications outside the food industry.

Tartufo, a desert covered in chocolate. Photo by Anna Fox

Bonbons can come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and tastes – but the most loved ones are without a doubt small candies coated in chocolate. The first reports about bonbons come from the 17th century, when they were made at the French royal court.

“Think of this formula as a recipe,” says Pedro Reis, the Gilbert W. Winslow Associate Professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. “I’m sure chocolatiers have come up with techniques that give empirically a set of instructions that they know will work. But our theory provides a a much better, quantitative understanding of what’s going on, and one can now be predictive.”

Reis and his team were inspired by videos of chocolatiers making bonbons and other chocolate shells. They pour the chocolate into molds, allowing excess chocolate to flow out, creating a shell of uniform thickness. But Reis was curious: was there a way to accurately predict the thickness of the resulting shell? He set out to explore this seemingly frivolous question, alongside lead author and graduate student Anna Lee, postdoc Joel Marthelot, and applied mathematics instructor Pierre-Thomas Brun, along with colleagues from the team of François Gallaire at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Initially, Lee and Marthelot used an analogous technique to experimentally create their own shells, using not chocolate but a polymer solution that they drizzled over dome-shaped molds and spheres.

They found that again and again, the coating had equal thickness on all sides (they cut the balls in half to test this). So they set out and determined the mathematical formula for the thickness of the shell, which is basically the square root of the fluid’s viscosity, times the mold’s radius, divided by the curing time of the polymer, times the polymer’s density and the acceleration of gravity as the polymer flows down the mold.

It sounds like a complicated formula, but it boils down to this: the bigger the mold, the thicker the shell, because it takes the fluid longer to flow to the bottom. The longer the curing time, the thinner the shell will be. Armed with that knowledge, they could go crazy with polymer models and see how to obtain shells of the desired thickness.

“You could go in the lab and lay down tons of ping pong balls and test various initial conditions, which is what Anna and Joel have been doing to some extent, but with numerics, you can get really creative,” Brun says.

Ultimately, they found that by tampering with the curing time, they can create much thicker coatings, which can be significant not only for the materials industry, but also for medical purposes

“By waiting between mixing and pouring the polymer, we can increase the thickness of a shell by a factor of 11,” says Lee.
“This flexibility of waiting gives us a simple parameter we can tune, depending on what we want for our final goal,” Reis says. “So I think ‘rapid fabrication’ is how we can describe this technique. Usually that term means 3-D printing and other expensive tools, but it could describe something as simple as pouring chocolate over a mold.”

slips steel

Coating makes steel stronger and squeaky clean

Used in everything from skyscraper girders, automobiles, and appliances to thumb tacks and paper clips, steel is one of the world’s most vital materials. While there’s been a great amount of research invested into steel, most of it has concentrated on making various grades of steel, with little focus on the surface itself. Understanding that there’s a great interest and need for steel surfaces that can stay clean and don’t corrode under harsh environmental conditions, a group of material scientists at Harvard have come up with a squeaky clean coating that does just that.

slips steel

Source: Aizenberg Lab/Harvard SEAS

Super steel

Called the Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS), the surface coating is heralded as the most  durable anti-fouling and anti-corrosive material to date. More specifically, it’s a  nanoporous  grown directly on the steel through an electrochemical technique – a standard manufacturing procedure that doesn’t require millions worth of new tech to be deployed.

SLIPS isn’t uniformly applied, but rather in  ultrathin film of hundreds of thousands of small islands. This proved to be important, since the steel doesn’t suffer mechanical degradation if one of the islands breaks. This means that the resulting steel carries both repellent and abrasive properties at the same time, which was impossible until now.

Accelerated corrosion test, in which unmodified stainless steel (300 grade) (right sample)and the lower part of the TO-SLIPS sample with a 600-nm-thick porous TO film on steel (left sample)were exposed to very corrosive Glyceregia stainless steel etchant. (a-h) Images show corrosion evolution as a function of contact time.

Accelerated corrosion test, in which unmodified stainless steel (300 grade) (right sample)and the lower part of the TO-SLIPS sample with a 600-nm-thick porous TO film on steel (left sample)were exposed to very corrosive Glyceregia stainless steel etchant. (a-h) Images show corrosion evolution as a function of contact time.

To test the material, engineers scratched the steel coated surface with everything from tweezers, to screwdrivers, and even pummeled hundreds of heavy beads. When it was tested against water, corrosive materials and even bacterial infested sludge, all of the liquids were repelled from the steel. Moreover, the resulting steel proved to be stronger sans the coating.

“Our slippery steel is orders of magnitude more durable than any anti-fouling material that has been developed before,” said Aizenberg. “So far, these two concepts – mechanical durability and anti-fouling – were at odds with each other. We need surfaces to be textured and porous to impart fouling resistance but rough nanostructured coatings are intrinsically weaker than their bulk analogs. This research shows that careful surface engineering allows the design of a material capable of performing multiple, even conflicting, functions, without performance degradation,” said Joanna Aizenberg, the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science and core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

The SLIPS technology for preventing biofilm formation as compared to a Teflon coated surface. (Photo courtesy of Joanna Aizenberg and Tak-Sing Wong.)

The SLIPS technology for preventing biofilm formation as compared to a Teflon coated surface. (Photo courtesy of Joanna Aizenberg and Tak-Sing Wong.)

According to Philseok Kim, co-author of the paper, the SLIPS coating will prove appealing in the biomedical industry where durable, but extra clean surgical equipment is required. Of course, applications where bacterial sludge is rampant on steel surfaces will definitely benefit. Take ship hulls for instance where microorganisms like barnacles and algae force companies and navies to constantly cleanup and apply anti-fouling paints. Also bio 3D printers that use sticky, viscous organic materials instead of polymers could use the anti-fouling, but durable steel coating for its nozzles.

Then there’s the ubiquitous problem of freezing surfaces. The aviation industry spends millions of dollars and countless hours spraying deicing fluid on the wings of planes as they sit waiting on wintery runways. SLIPS could easy solve this problem by repelling ice and water simply using gravity. That’s because it can be applied to other metals too, not just steel. The group tested aluminum refrigeration fins coated with SLIPS in 2013 at -10 degrees Celsius and 60 percent humidity, and the technology significantly outperformed typical “frost-free” cooling systems in terms of preventing frost from forming over time.

“This research is an example of hard core, classic material science,” said Aizenberg. “We took a material that changed the world and asked, how can we make it better?”