Ultrathin films promise a multitude of uses

Sep 07, 2005

Imagine a special coating that can be applied to any of a number of surfaces. With its application, carpets, furniture and clothing become super-resistant to stains; automobile bodies are impermeable to water and rust; stents put in place during heart surgery no longer are susceptible to tissue growth that can restrict blood flow; and cell cultures are more easily produced in the laboratory.

These are just a few of the possibilities envisioned by a Florida State University researcher who is developing processes for applying such coatings.

Joseph B. Schlenoff, a professor in FSU's department of chemistry and biochemistry and associate director of its Center for Materials Research and Technology (MARTECH), has worked for more than eight years to develop ultrathin films that repel water and other corrosive substances.

"When you wax your car, water tends to bead up on the surface in small droplets," Schlenoff said. "But when one of these films is applied, water virtually flies off. That's because the films are 'superhydrophobic,' and water droplets ride over them."

The key to creating such films lies in a layering process that Schlenoff has patented.

"Essentially, we place layers of positively and negatively charged electrolytes atop one another," he said. "Their electrical charges cancel each other out, creating a neutrally charged, ultrathin film. The protective seal that is created by such films is much more effective than paints or resins alone at repelling corrosive substances, such as salt or water."

Naresh Dalal, chairman of FSU's department of chemistry and biochemistry, said that other researchers have created methods for producing multilayer films, but that Schlenoff's process is particularly simple -- and relatively inexpensive to reproduce. "The potential applications for this technology are staggering," he said.

Consider these possibilities:

-- Car bodies, building materials, boat hulls or other items that are likely to degrade when exposed to the elements could be treated with ultrathin films during the manufacturing process to make them resistant to rust, corrosion or water damage.

-- Stains on clothing, carpeting and other fabrics could be a thing of the past if films are applied.

-- Stents used for implantation inside coronary arteries during surgical procedures could be coated with an ultrathin film that prevents cells and proteins from adhering, thus avoiding a narrowing of the arteries and restriction of blood flow.

-- Contact lenses could be treated to prevent proteins and calcium deposits from binding to them during wear.

-- High-speed electronics could be coated with ultrathin films to make them resistant to electrostatic fields that interfere with their functions.

-- Glass slides can be stamped with films that encourage or retard cellular adhesion in certain areas, allowing for greater efficiency in producing certain cell cultures used in biomedical research.

Already, one of Schlenoff's patents has entered the marketplace. Recently, Schlenoff and another FSU researcher, Stephen Dubas, designed a small robot that can dip glass slides into beakers to coat the slides with an ultrathin film. Copies of the robot are selling all over the world for more than $10,000 apiece.

All told, Schlenoff holds six issued U.S. patents, with several pending, related to ultrathin films, placing him second among FSU faculty behind fellow chemistry Professor Robert Holton, whose discovery of a synthetic form of the cancer-fighting drug Taxol earned the university $67 million a year at the peak of its popularity.

"It's exciting to be involved in an emerging technology that has potential for helping people in so many ways," Schlenoff said. "If it benefits FSU financially, all the better."

Source: Florida State University

Explore further: How to better allocate research money and fix a flawed system

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A new chapter of solar energy conversion and storage?

Nov 13, 2012

(Phys.org)—Using the power of the sun and ultrathin films of iron oxide (commonly known as rust), Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers have found a novel way to split water molecules into ...

Water-shedding surfaces can be made to last

Sep 20, 2013

Steam condensation is key to the worldwide production of electricity and clean water: It is part of the power cycle that drives 85 percent of all electricity-generating plants and about half of all desalination ...

An all-glass lab-on-a-chip

Jul 04, 2013

Lab-on-a-chip devices are microfluidic cells that incorporate pipes, reaction vessels, valves and a host of other implements typically found in laboratories. These components are typically carved into a flat ...

Recommended for you

How to win a Tour de France sprint

38 minutes ago

The final dash to the line in a Tour de France sprint finish may appear to the bystander to be a mess of bodies trying to cram into the width of a road, but there is a high degree of strategy involved. It ...

Radar search to find lost Aboriginal burial site

4 hours ago

Scientists said Tuesday they hope that radar technology will help them find a century-old Aboriginal burial ground on an Australian island, bringing some closure to the local indigenous population.

'Moral victories' might spare you from losing again

14 hours ago

It's human nature to hate losing. Unfortunately, it's also human nature to overreact to a loss, potentially abandoning a solid strategy and thus increasing your chances of losing the next time around.

User comments : 0