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MIT: #RareEarth oxides make water-repellent surfaces that last


Ceramic forms of hydrophobic materials could be far more durable than existing coatings or surface treatments.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
January 20, 2013

Water-shedding surfaces that are robust in harsh environments could have broad applications in many industries including energy, water, transportation, construction and medicine. For example, condensation of water is a crucial part of many industrial processes, and condensers are found in most electric power plants and in desalination plants.

Hydrophobic materials — ones that prevent water from spreading over a surface, instead causing it to form droplets that easily fall away — can greatly enhance the efficiency of this process. But these materials have one major problem: Most employ thin polymer coatings that degrade when heated, and can easily be destroyed by wear.

MIT researchers have now come up with a new class of hydrophobic ceramics that can overcome these problems. These ceramic materials are highly hydrophobic, but are also durable in the face of extreme temperatures and rough treatment.

The work, by mechanical engineering postdoc Gisele Azimi and Associate Professor Kripa Varanasi, along with two graduate students and another postdoc, is described this ...