Lotus blossoms are beautiful, and always immaculately clean. Water drops bead up and roll off of their water-repellent surface, washing away every speck of dust. This type of self-cleaning surface would be very useful to us as well: no more carwash, no soiled facades on houses—the potential uses are endless. To date, however, technology has not been able to duplicate nature’s success. Researchers led by Kingo Uchida and Shinichiro Nakamura have now synthesized a compound in the diarylethene family whose surface becomes super-water-repellent on command.
The secret behind the lotus effect is the special microstructure, consisting of tiny nubs, on the surface of the lotus plant’s leaves. These micronodules provide no surface on which water drops can collect, so the leaf does not get coated with water. The drops contract into beads and roll off the surface, sweeping away any particles of dirt they encounter on the way. On normal smooth surfaces, water drops coat the surface and assume a hemispherical shape. Instead of rolling, they then glide over the surface, which does not allow them to remove dirt particles.
The Japanese researchers have now synthesized a special substance, a member of the group of compounds known as diarylethenes, and produced a microcrystalline film of this substance on a support. Electron microscopy images show that the surface of this film is initially smooth. When the diarylethene film is irradiated with UV light, the previously colorless surface turns blue—and is no longer smooth. Instead it is covered with a fine down of tiny fibers that have a diameter of about 1 µm. This down has a similar effect to the micronodules on the lotus blossom, resulting in a super-water-repellent surface. If the surface is irradiated again, this time with visible light, the fibers and color vanish, leaving a colorless, smooth, and wettable surface.
This effect originates from changes in the molecular structure. The diarylethene molecule is made of three five-membered rings hooked together. UV light sets off a rearrangement within the molecule (isomerization). This results in a ring closure, which leads to formation of a fourth ring. The isomer with the closed fourth ring crystallizes in the form of needles, which grow out of the crystals of the isomer with the open ring as soon as a certain concentration is reached. Light in the visible range of the spectrum sets off the reverse reaction: the ring re-opens, and the needles disappear.
Author: Kingo Uchida, Ryukoku University, Otsu (Japan), http://www.chem.ryukoku.ac.jp/~uchida/UchidaLab5a.htm
Title: Photoinduced Reversible Formation of Microfibrils on a Photochromic Diarylethene Microcrystalline Surface
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.200602126
| Angewandte Chemie
Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware
Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging
24.04.2017 | Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences