0324 GMT July 19, 2019
As a result, material scientists are looking for a safer way to waterproof materials, UPI wrote.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new type of coating. Not only is the new coating safer, it also works better, its inventors claim.
MIT Professor Kripa Varanasi said, "Most fabrics that say 'water-repellent' are actually water-resistant. If you're standing out in the rain, eventually water will get through.
“The goal is to be repellent — to have the drops just bounce back."
All sorts of products rely on waterproofing, but traditional hydrophobic technologies suffer several problems. Most waterproofing coatings are liquid-based. Fabrics must be entirely submerged and then dried. The technique limits breathability.
To reopen sealed-over pores in the fabric, air is blown through the material, an additional manufacturing step. The additional step increases production costs and undermines the waterproofing effect.
The solution developed by Karanasi and his colleagues combines short-chain polymers, which don't accumulate as easily or persist in the environment, with a coating process called initiated chemical vapor deposition, or iCVD.
Researchers described the technology in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
The technique doesn't involve liquids. Instead, the application process allows the polymer to form to the contours of the fabric's fibers without clogging pores. An added sand-blasting step can enhance the coating hydrophobic effect, but is not necessary.
Former MIT postdoc Dan Soto said, "The biggest challenge was finding the sweet spot where performance, durability, and iCVD compatibility could work together and deliver the best performance.”
Lab tests proved the coating technology works to waterproof a variety of fabrics and materials against a variety of liquids, including coffee, soy sauce, ketchup and sodium hydroxide. The coatings integrity also survived repeated washing and abrasion tests.
Varanasi said, "Many fabrics can benefit from this technology. There's a lot of potential here."