Researchers Print Tiny Mushroom Structures to Repel Water Drops

Materials science researchers from Hunan University in China have revealed a new bionic functional surface that achieves programmable and patterned droplet bouncing. The project holds potential for various applications, including self-cleaning technology, energy harvesting, and water management.

Traditionally, scientists have drawn inspiration from nature to create water-repellent surfaces, but these natural examples lack the precision required for controlled droplet manipulation. However, the research team took inspiration from nature’s design and combined it with high-resolution 3D printing techniques to create plastic surfaces covered in mushroom-shaped microstructures. These tiny pillars, when coated with a hydrophobic spray, were able to precisely control the behavior of water droplets.

Researchers Print Tiny Mushroom Structures to Repel Water Drops
Hydrophobic-coated printed mushrooms. (Image Credit: Hunan University)

By altering the shape, size, orientation, and arrangement of these mushroom microstructures, the researchers could dictate the speed and trajectory of bouncing water droplets. They even demonstrated the ability to orchestrate complex droplet paths, such as forming pentagon and hexagon shapes.

Beyond the novelty of programmable droplet bouncing, these intelligently designed surfaces hold significant promise for various applications such as transporting collected water to storage sites, preventing the buildup of dirt or ice on solar panels and aircraft, and potentially converting the energy of raindrops into electricity.

The research highlights the power of purposeful surface design at the microscopic level, allowing for macro-level functionality. This not only provides potential new opportunities for advancements in water management but also hints at broader applications, such as redirecting microparticles, chemical reagent droplets, or living cells for analysis and sorting.

You can read the full research paper, titled “Programmable Droplet Bouncing on Bionic Functional Surfaces for Continuous Electricity Generation” in the Advanced Functional Materials journal, right here.

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