Superomniphobic surfaces could shield against chemical and biological agents

A surface that uses nanocomposite technology could protect first responders from chemical and biological agents and lead to self-cleaning clothing, according to a recent Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded study.

In 2006, Anish Tuteja, an MIT doctoral student at the time, experimented with the exploitation of a nanocomposite surface with fluorinated nanoparticles to develop a superoleophobic surface. Tuteja, now an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, conducted several years of experiments on the surface, recently published a paper on superomniphobic surfaces and their effectiveness for chemical shielding, Medical News Today reports.

The paper, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, demonstrates surfaces that work as chemical shields against virtually all liquids. The surfaces are able to repel liquids of any material using a nanoscale coating that is approximately 95 percent air, preventing liquids from touching a solid surface.

"(When liquids impact untreated surfaces) they imbue a small positive or negative charge on each other, and as soon as the liquid comes in contact with the solid surface, it will start to spread," Tuteja said, according to Medical News Today. "We've drastically reduced the interaction between the surface and the droplet."

If experiments on the surfaces continue to be successful, they could lead to protective biological and chemical warfare defense for clothing and sensor systems. Other potential applications include improved thermal management efficiency in phase change cooling systems, control of fuel and oil leakages in rockets and airplanes, and protection against everyday spills, Medical News Today reports.