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Nano-Engineers Produce Liquid-Repellent Paper

posted 9 Jan 2014, 12:02 by Mpelembe   [ updated 9 Jan 2014, 12:03 ]

Through a nano-engineering process, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technologyhave changed the chemical properties of paper to give it the ability to repel liquid more efficiently and at lower cost than existing materials. It looks and feels like conventional paper, but that's where the similarities end.

MIAMI, FLORIDAUNITED STATES (JANUARY 9, 2014) (REUTERS) -  Paper towel is prized in kitchens around the world for its ability to absorb liquid. But scientists at Georgia Tech are developing a new type of paper, one engineered to do exactly the opposite.

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Professor Dennis Hess, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, says water repellent paper products have a host of applications, from packaging material that doesn't get damaged in the rain, to new types of medical devices which can be inlayed with sensors to test human fluids like blood and urine.

"Biomedical tests where we can incorporate some sort of sensor material that would react with something in blood or some sort of bodily fluid that would allow testing very quickly, very cheaply, and very easily," he said adding that the research was inspired by the lotus leaf which naturally repels liquid.

Working on the nano-scale, Hess and his team roughen the paper's surface, a multi-step process designed to remove the outer, absorbent cellulose layer which uncovers a crystalline layer that is naturally patterned to be water resistant.

"After we roughen the surface, we deposit a fluorocarbon film that is about 100 nanometers thick on to the surface, and we have our super-hydrophobic surface," Hess added.

Hess and his team can only produce small samples of water-repellent paper, but he's confident that the process can be scaled up and industrialized, bringing a 21st century twist to an ancient product.