New coating turns ordinary glass into super glass

New coating turns ordinary glass into super glass
The tiny, tightly packed cells of the honeycomb-like structure, shown here in this electron micrograph, make the SLIPS coating highly durable. Credit: Nicolas Vogel, Wyss Institute

A new transparent, bioinspired coating makes ordinary glass tough, self-cleaning and incredibly slippery, a team from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) reported online in the July 31 edition of Nature Communications.

The new could be used to create durable, scratch-resistant lenses for eyeglasses, self-cleaning windows, improved and new medical diagnostic devices, said principal investigator Joanna Aizenberg, Ph.D., who is a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute, Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at SEAS, and a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

The new coating builds on an award-winning technology that Aizenberg and her team pioneered called Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS)—the slipperiest synthetic surface known. The new coating is equally slippery, but much more durable and fully transparent. Together these advances solve longstanding challenges in creating commercially useful materials that repel almost everything.

SLIPS was inspired by the slick strategy of the carnivorous , which lures insects onto the ultraslippery surface of its leaves, where they slide to their doom. Unlike earlier water-repelling materials, SLIPS repels oil and sticky liquids like honey, and it resists ice formation and as well.

While SLIPS was an important advance, it was also "a proof of principle" – the first step toward a commercially valuable technology, said lead author Nicolas Vogel, Ph.D., a in applied physics at Harvard SEAS.

"SLIPS repels both oily and aqueous liquids but it's expensive to make and not transparent," Vogel said.

New coating turns ordinary glass into super glass
Researchers create the ultraslippery coating by creating a glass honeycomb-like structure with craters (left), coating it with a Teflon-like chemical (purple) that binds to the honeycomb cells to form a stable liquid film. That film repels droplets of both water and oily liquids (right). Because it's a liquid, it flows, which helps the coating repair itself when damaged. Credit: Nicolas Vogel, Wyss Institute.

The original SLIPS materials also need to be fastened somehow to existing surfaces, which is often not easy.

"It would be easier to take the existing surface and treat it in a certain way to make it slippery," Vogel explained.

Vogel, Aizenberg, and their colleagues sought to develop a coating that accomplishes this and works as SLIPS does. SLIPS's thin layer of liquid lubricant allows liquids to flow easily over the surface, much as a thin layer of water in an ice rink helps an ice skater glide.

To create a SLIPS-like coating, the researchers corral a collection of tiny spherical particles of polystyrene, the main ingredient of Styrofoam, on a flat glass surface like a collection of Ping-Pong balls. They pour liquid glass on them until the balls are more than half buried in glass. After the glass solidifies, they burn away the beads, leaving a network of craters that resembles a honeycomb. They then coat that honeycomb with the same liquid lubricant used in SLIPS to create a tough but slippery coating.

"The honeycomb structure is what confers the mechanical stability to the new coating," said Aizenberg.

By adjusting the width of the honeycomb cells to make them much smaller in diameter than the wavelength of visible light, the researchers kept the coating from reflecting light. This made a glass slide with the coating completely transparent.

The SLIPS coating makes glass so slippery that droplets of liquids slip off quickly even at a shallow angle. Here, from top to bottom, a droplet of octane, an ingredient of gasoline, rolls off a watch glass in just one second. Credit: Nicolas Vogel, Wyss Institute.

These coated glass slides repelled a variety of liquids, just as SLIPS does, including water, octane, wine, olive oil and ketchup. And, like SLIPS, the coating reduced the adhesion of ice to a glass slide by 99 percent. Keeping materials frost-free is important because adhered ice can take down power lines, decrease the energy efficiency of cooling systems, delay airplanes and lead buildings to collapse.

Importantly, the honeycomb structure of the SLIPS coating on the glass slides confers unmatched mechanical robustness. It withstood damage and remained slippery after various treatments that can scratch and compromise ordinary glass surfaces and other popular liquid-repellent materials, including touching, peeling off a piece of tape, wiping with a tissue.

"We set ourselves a challenging goal: to design a versatile coating that's as good as SLIPS but much easier to apply, transparent, and much tougher—and that is what we managed," Aizenberg said.

The team is now honing its method to better coat curved pieces of as well as clear plastics such as Plexiglas, and to adapt the method for the rigors of manufacturing.

"Joanna's new SLIPS coating reveals the power of following Nature's lead in developing new technologies," said Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., the Wyss Institute's Founding Director. "We are excited about the range of applications that could use this innovative coating." Ingber is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, and Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard SEAS.

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Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by Harvard University
Citation: New coating turns ordinary glass into super glass (2013, August 2) retrieved 17 August 2019 from
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Aug 02, 2013
Sounds like a great idea for aircraft windshields. If adapted to flight surfaces, this could end icing issues ofr commercial aircraft.

Aug 02, 2013
I want this on my car now!

Aug 02, 2013
Franklins: I think that's why they go into such detail about the manufacturing process, wherein they structure the surface of the glass to best hold onto the slippery material.

Aug 02, 2013
Nice breakthrough but it's still a very involved, expensive process and product. I doubt you'll see buildings using windows with this any time soon- cellphone touch screens first, if cheaper than Apple's gorilla glass. I would rather see the process of producing aerogels reduced so that windows can have the same R factor as a solid wall. That would be a boon to the building industry.

Aug 02, 2013
cellphone touch screens first, if cheaper than Apple's gorilla glass.
Actually that's Corning's Gorilla Glass. Apple is just the consumer.

Aug 03, 2013
Big whoop. Here's something cheaper and easier:


Aug 03, 2013
I wish someone would invent a glass or glass coating that can withstand pitting by blowing desert sands. The windshield of my FJ Cruiser really gets pitted from driving to work during high desert winds here in Kuwait. I have to replace my windshield monthly in some seasons. The problem is that windshields are made of the same stuff as sand.

Aug 03, 2013
I suspect that this unbreakable finish was first perfected, like Roman cement, in ancient times.

The cement depends on using pre cooked concrete. I suspect that this finish can be duplicated using a preheated form of silica.

Aug 04, 2013
I see they're trying to apply the product to plexiglass as well. This could greatly expand the market opportunities. I couldn't find any cost info, but even at high prices it should find some ready markets.

Aug 04, 2013
Franklins: I think that's why they go into such detail about the manufacturing process, wherein they structure the surface of the glass to best hold onto the slippery material.
This is irrelevant to my comment. The living organisms in nature can have success with such surface, as they're able to regenerate them continuously. Whereas the above samples are for single usage only: once they will get dirty or scratched/wiped out, they will not work well anymore. After all, we can read about these surfaces every year without single output at market, which speaks for itself.

Um, from what I'm reading, there is a limited self-healing of this material because it is fundamentally a liquid held in place. Not animal healing, but apparently partly derived from the pitcher plant model. How do you hold a super-slick liquid in place? With a microtextured structure. Since it is still liquid, it flows to fill gaps.

Aug 04, 2013
No more windshield wipers on cars? cool

Aug 05, 2013
Beware that Harvard "researchers" could stole in Nature journals both the ideas and money of taxpayers. It confirmed by the numerous swindlers from David H. Koch Inst. for Integrative Cancer Research and Department of Chemical Engineering, also with Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and School of Engineering and Applied Science of Harvard University at .
Their plagiaristic "masterpieces" titled Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic tissues (DOI: 10.1038/NMAT3404) and Outside Looking In: Nanotube Transistor Intracellular Sensors ( were funded by NIH Director's Pioneer Award (1DP1OD003900) and a McKnight Foundation Technological Innovations in Neurosciences Award, also a Biotechnology Research Endowment from the Dep. of Anesthesiology at Children's Hospital Boston and NIH grant GM073626, and NIH grants DE013023 and DE016516.

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