Inspired by a natural structures used to control wettability to amazing and functional ends, in the laboratory of Professor Joanna Aizenberg I worked to engineer and develop application tests of anti-adhesive coatings. Things sticking to other things is something of a foundational problem, be it in bacterial transmission and infections (stability of protective biofilms), building objects (preventing inefficiency/failure), or outcomes of wars (mobility of naval vessels and trigger ability of sea mines). We found that one route to these properties is through use of a bound inert liquid, acting as a barrier layer to reduce contact with the underlying solid, a similar strategy used by a carnivorous pitcher plant to trap prey in digestive juices.
Development of scalable & cost-effective methods to control topographies, structures and chemistries, on materials and form factors required for high value applications is part of the battle. The other side is to test these coatings broadly or for targeted repellency with: complex biological materials and organisms (i.e. blood, bacteria, mussels, barnacles, algae), corrosive fluids, accumulation of performance degrading material (i.e. ice, mucous, marine growth).
All of this is based on nano and micro scale physics which dominates the macro wetting behavior. A perfect example of how the very small can impact the very large. The proverbial mouse that scares the elephant.
Part of my work on this topic includes technology de-risking, application engineering and techno-economic analysis leading to spinning out a start-up company, currently under the name Adaptive Surfaces Technology.
Preventing mussel adhesion using lubricant-infused materials. Science, 2017;357 (6352) :668-673. [Full Text]
Extremely durable biofouling-resistant metallic surfaces: Electrodeposited tungstite, Nat. Commun. 2015;6 :8649. [Full Text]
Stability of Surface-Immobilized Lubricant Interfaces under Flow. Chem. Mater. 2015;27 (5) :1792-1800. [Full Text]
Liquid-Infused Silicone As a Biofouling-Free Medical Material. ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng. 2014;1 (1) :43-51. [Full Text]