Less elbow grease in the kitchen and bathroom

22 January 2007

Kitchen surfaces that clean themselves could be a step closer thanks to revolutionary coatings devised by UK scientists.

The news is reported in the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Soft Matter.

Dr Ulrich Steiner, Dr Pieter van der Wal and their team based at Cambridge University have developed a way to make surfaces that stay dry and clean.

The "super-hydrophobic" coatings work in a similar way to those of the lotus leaf - which never gets wet, even after rainfall. Instead the water beads up and rolls off the leaf's surface, taking any dirt away with it.

Their method is simple and cheap, making use of two common materials - Teflon and polystyrene. 

Super-hydrophobic surface

Large holes in the surface, left by polystyrene particles, give the coating its non-stick quality

The coatings are made by mixing some large polystyrene particles into Teflon, and then heating it - which removes the polystyrene and leaves behind large holes, both at the surface and deeper inside the coating.

Dr Steiner said: "This surface porosity is what gives the coating its self-cleaning properties.

"As well as easy clean surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, we can foresee applications in the bio-medical field.

"Imagine a bottle of very precious medicine. If its inside is covered by a super-hydrophobic surface, all its content can be reliably drained."

Dr Claudio Della Volpe, an applied physical chemistry researcher at the University of Trento Italy, said the uses of the coatings could be even more widespread.

Dr Della Volpe said: "Only imagination limits the possible applications."

with thanks to Sarah Corcoran for the original article


Super-hydrophobic surfaces made from Teflon  P van der Wal and U Steiner, Soft Matter, 2007 DOI: 10.1039/b613947g

Less elbow grease, more science

Kitchen surfaces that require hardly any cleaning might sound like a pipedream, but UK-based scientists have made surface coatings that could mean just that.

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