Slippery steel - Webdesk Wiki

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Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have demonstrated a way to make steel stronger, safer and more durable. Their new surface coating, made from rough nanoporous tungsten oxide, is the most durable anti-fouling and anti-corrosive material to date, capable of repelling any kind of liquid even after sustaining intense structural abuse.

Slippery steel


The new material joins the portfolio of other non-stick, anti-fouling materials developed in the lab of 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. Aizenberg's team developed Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces in 2011 and since then has demonstrated a broad range of applications for the super-slick coating, known as SLIPS. The new SLIPS-enhanced steel is described in Nature Communications.

"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."

The material could have far-ranging applications and avenues for commercialization, including non-fouling medical tools and devices, such as implants and scalpels, nozzles for 3D printing and, potentially, larger-scale applications for buildings and marine vessels.

The biggest challenge in the development of this surface was to figure out how to structure steel to ensure its anti-fouling capability without mechanical degradation. The team solved this by using an electrochemical technique to grow an ultrathin film of hundreds of thousands of small and rough tungsten-oxide islands directly onto a steel surface.

The team tested the material by scratching it with stainless steel tweezers, screwdrivers, diamond-tipped scribers, and pummeling it with hundreds of thousands of hard, heavy beads. Then, the team tested its anti-wetting properties with a wide variety of liquids, including water, oil, highly corrosive media, biological fluids containing bacteria and blood. Not only did the material repel all the liquid and show anti-biofouling behavior but the tungsten oxide actually made the steel stronger than steel without the coating.