A self-healing, water-repellent, spray-on coating developed at the University of Michigan is hundreds of times more durable than its counterparts.
It could enable waterproofing of vehicles, clothing, rooftops and countless other surfaces for which current waterproofing treatments are too fragile. It could also lower the resistance of ship hulls, a step that would reduce the fuel consumption of the massive vessels that transport 90 percent of the world's cargo.
The developers say the new concoction is a breakthrough in a field where decades of research have failed to produce a durable coating. While water-repellent finishes are available at present, they're typically not strong enough for applications like clothing or ship hulls. This discovery changes that.
The coating is made of a mix of a material called "fluorinated polyurethane elastomer" and a specialized water-repellent molecule known as "F-POSS." It can be easily sprayed onto virtually any surface and has a slightly rubbery texture that makes it more resilient than its predecessors.
If it is damaged, the coating can heal itself hundreds of times. It can bounce back even after being abraded, scratched, burned, plasma-cleaned, flattened, sonicated and chemically attacked.
In addition to recovering physically, the coating can heal itself chemically. If water-repellent F-POSS molecules are scraped from the surface, new molecules will naturally migrate there to replace them. That's how the coating can renew itself hundreds of times. Its healing ability is limited only by its thickness.
The discovery is being commercialized by HygraTek, a company founded by Tuteja with assistance from U-M Tech Transfer.