The lotus effect, named after the plant's best-known characteristic, ensures water drips off its leaves without leaving any residue while also removing any dirt particles. This prevents fungi and other potentially harmful organisms from spreading on the lotus flower. The effect was successfully recreated some time ago and has since been used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from self-cleaning bathroom ceramics to dirt-resistant wall paint. Self-cleaning surfaces are also an important research topic, and scientists have never simply made do with the hydrophobic properties of the lotus effect. Instead, they remained determined to find a way of also repelling oily and particularly stubbornly adhesive liquids. A joint research project conducted by the Laser Applications Center (LaserApplikationsZentrum - LAZ) and the Research Institute for Innovative Surfaces (Forschungsinstitut für Innovative Oberflächen - FINO) at Aalen University has now apparently succeeded in developing groundbreaking surfaces that reliably prevent the adhesion of oily substances.
The two institutes started out by texturizing metal surfaces using laser irradiation as part of a multi-stage process. They then attached tiny quartz beads to the edges of the lasered micrometer-sized structures by means of electrophoresis, before using a chemical reaction to achieve the right surface properties to completely repel oily substances. The impressive results of this project have now been published in the June issue of the renowned international journal "Applied Surface Science". The professors involved in this endeavor, Dr. Harald Riegel, Dr. Timo Sörgel and Dr. Joachim Albrecht, believe the key to their success was pooling different scientific skill sets: "Here in Aalen, we're particularly good at turning interdisciplinary collaborations into very fruitful research projects," Dr. Albrecht points out.