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A new surface coating developed by researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences make steel stronger, safer, and more durable. The new anti-corrosive and anti-fouling surface material, made from rough nanoporous tungsten oxide, repels any kind of liquid, even after sustaining intense structural abuse.

The coating could have applications for commercialization, including non-fouling medical tools, implants, and scalpels.

To prevent mechanical degradation, the team used an electrochemical technique to grow an ultra-thin film of hundreds of thousands of small and rough tungsten-oxide islands directly onto a steel surface.

“If one part of an island is destroyed, the damage doesn’t propagate to other parts of the surface because of the lack of interconnectivity between neighboring islands,” said Alexander B. Tesler, former postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and current research fellow at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. “This island-like morphology combined with the inherent durability and roughness of the tungsten oxide allows the surface to keep its repellent properties in highly abrasive applications, which was impossible until now.”

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