Nanotech

Heavy rain. / Photo by: Pridatko Oleksandr via Wikimedia Commons

 

Waterproofing is a feature that can be found in smartphones so users may use them under the rain. But people also want to keep their clothes dry and warm while using their phones under heavy rain. So, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted an experiment and found a new coating to make fabrics waterproof.

Most fabrics with the water-repellent feature are only water-resistant and it can only withstand a certain amount of water for a specific period of time; eventually, the fabric will get drenched. The current coatings that provide water resistance on fabrics are usually composed of long polymers with perfluorinated side-chains. However, these coatings are usually manufactured in a liquid form that clogs the pores of the fabric, thus requiring another process to reopen the pores while adding cost to manufacturing and stripping some water protection along the way.

MIT researchers used a shorter-chain polymer that has some hydrophobic properties and enhanced it with a process called Initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition. The process allowed the production of a very thin, uniform coating that goes along the contours of the fibers. It also prevented the pores from being clogged, removing the traditional secondary process to reopen them.

To determine performance, the team produced fabrics using the iCVD method and subjected them to different kinds of liquids like water, coffee, acids, and even bases. The coated fabrics were able to repel them all. For durability, they washed the fabrics repeatedly and observed no degradation. They also applied severe abrasion tests and discovered that the fibers sustained damage, but the coating remained intact.

The coating they developed can be used in various types of fabrics like cotton, nylon, and linen. They also confirmed that it can be applied on non-fabric materials like paper.

“Many fabrics can benefit from this technology. There’s a lot of potential here,” said Kripa Varanasi, an author of the study and an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.