Researchers develop new omniphobic coating for protective face shields

Researchers at the Okanagan Polymer Engineering Research and Applications (OPERA) Lab, based in the University of British Colombia, have developed a coating that repels nearly all substances from a surface.

This new coating will make cleaning personal protective equipment a little bit easier for front-line health care workers, explains Kevin Golovin, an Assistant Professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering and director at OPERA.

This technology has many applications but we are currently focused on providing a solution that will keep our nurses and doctors safe and effective,” says Golovin.

“This new coating will prevent droplets or microbes from sticking to a face shield. This makes disinfecting face shields feasible just with water rather than requiring complex disinfectant procedures.”

Surfaces that can repel a broad range of liquids are called omniphobic, explains UBCO master's student and lead author of the study, Behrooz Khatir.

Working in Golovin’s lab, Khatir has created a spray-on solution that can make any surface, including a face shield, omniphobic.

Omniphobic—all-liquid repellent—films can repel a broad range of liquids but the applicability of these coatings has always been limited to silicon wafers or smooth glass,” says Khatir.

“This new formulation can coat and protect just about any surface, including metals, paper, ceramics and even plastics.”

Not only does the coating repel countless substances but even under harsh exposures like UV light, acids and high temperatures, the coating maintains its resistance qualities.

And Golovin notes, if the coating does become damaged it can be easily and repeatedly repaired, fully restoring the omniphobic properties to their initial state.

The two-layer coating involves placing an ultra-smooth silica layer on a surface and then functionalising this layer with a highly-reactive silicone to effectively block all kinds of liquids from sticking on the surface, explains Golovin.

Golovin recently received COVID-19 funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to optimise the coating for health care face shields so they stay clean, in partnership with Kelowna-based survivability products manufacturer PRE Labs Inc.

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