Research on super-hydrophobic surfaces could result in cleaner, more efficient power
In a basement lab on BYU’s campus, mechanical engineering professor Julie Crockett analyzes water as it bounces like a ball and rolls down a ramp.
A droplet of water beads up on top of a hydrophobic surface. Water beads up even more on super-hydrophobic surfaces
This phenomenon occurs because Crockett and her colleague Dan Maynes have created a sloped channel that is super-hydrophobic, or a surface that is extremely difficult to wet. In layman’s terms, it’s the most extreme form of water proof.
Engineers like Crockett and Maynes have spent decades studying super-hydrophobic surfaces because of the plethora of real-life applications. And while some of this research has resulted in commercial products that keep shoes dry or prevent oil from building up on bolts, the duo of BYU professors are uncovering characteristics aimed at large-scale solutions for society.
Their recent study on the subject, published in academic journal Physics of Fluids, finds surfaces with a pattern of microscopic ridges or posts, combined with a hydrophobic coating, produces an even higher level of water resistance--depending on how the water hits the surface.
“Our research is geared toward helping to create the ideal super-hydrophobic surface,” Crockett said. “By characterizing the specific properties of these different surfaces, we can better pinpoint which types of surfaces are most advantageous for each application.”
Their work is critical because the growing list of applications for super-hydrophobic surfaces is extremely diverse:
But where Crockett and Maynes’ research is really headed is toward cleaner and more efficient energy generation. Nearly every power plant across the country creates energy by burning coal or natural gas to create steam that expands and rotates a turbine. Once that has happened, the steam needs to be condensed back into a liquid state to be cycled back through.
If power plant condensers can be built with optimal super-hydrophobic surfaces, that process can be sped up in significant ways, saving time and lowering costs to generate power.
“If you have these surfaces, the fluid isn’t attracted to the condenser wall, and as soon as the steam starts condensing to a liquid, it just rolls right off,” Crockett said. “And so you can very, very quickly and efficiently condense a lot of gas.”
The super-hydrophobic surfaces the researchers are testing in the lab fall into one of two categories: surfaces with micro posts or surfaces with ribs and cavities one tenth the size of a human hair. (See images of each to the right.)
To create these micro-structured surfaces, the professors use a process similar to photo film development that etches patterns onto CD-sized wafers. The researchers then add a thin water-resistant film to the surfaces, such as Teflon, and use ultra-high-speed cameras to document the way water interacts when dropped, jetted or boiled on them.
They’re finding slight alterations in the width of the ribs and cavities, or the angles of the rib walls are significantly changing the water responses. All of this examination is providing a clearer picture of why super-hydrophobic surfaces do what they do.
“People know about these surfaces, but why they cause droplets or jets to behave the way they do is not particularly well known,” Crockett said. “If you don’t know why the phenomena are occurring, it may or may not actually be beneficial to you.”
Todd Hollingshead | Eurek Alert!
Squeezed quantum cats
27.05.2015 | ETH Zurich
Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies
27.05.2015 | Michigan State University
The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.
Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
27.05.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.05.2015 | Health and Medicine
27.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy