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Ultra-thin self-healing vitrimer coatings for durable hydrophobicity

Ma, J., Porath, LE., Haque, MF., Sett, S., Rabbi, KF., Nam, S., Miljkovic, N., Evans, CM.,
Nature communications

Abstract

Durable hydrophobic materials have attracted considerable interest in the last century. Currently, the most popular strategy to achieve hydrophobic coating durability is through the combination of a perfluoro-compound with a mechanically robust matrix to form a composite for coating protection. The matrix structure is typically large (thicker than 10 μm), difficult to scale to arbitrary materials, and incompatible with applications requiring nanoscale thickness such as heat transfer, water harvesting, and desalination. Here, we demonstrate durable hydrophobicity and superhydrophobicity with nanoscale-thick, perfluorinated compound-free polydimethylsiloxane vitrimers that are self-healing due to the exchange of network strands. The polydimethylsiloxane vitrimer thin film maintains excellent hydrophobicity and optical transparency after scratching, cutting, and indenting. We show that the polydimethylsiloxane vitrimer thin film can be deposited through scalable dip-coating on a variety of substrates. In contrast to previous work achieving thick durable hydrophobic coatings by passively stacking protective structures, this work presents a pathway to achieving ultra-thin (thinner than 100 nm) durable hydrophobic films.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-25508-4