ORNL technology will soon help protect several Samsung devices

11/10/2016

Thanks to cutting-edge technology developed by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, look for smartphones and other electronic devices with enhanced glass display capabilities and self-cleaning properties in the near future.

Samsung Electronics has exclusively licensed optically clear superhydrophobic film technology from ORNL that will better whisk away water and debris from glass-based coatings, is antireflective, fog-resistant and sets industry standards for durability and cost effectiveness.

Tolga Aytug, co-inventor of the technology for ORNL, said applications for the process are almost limitless.

“It can be used on glass displays that require full water shedding properties, ranging from laptops to TV screens, tablets, dryer screens, refrigerators with nice displays or electronic equipment used in the field by the military,” said Aytug.

“The thin nanostructured layer of porous glass film enables these combined properties, making it suitable for commercial applications.”

Aytug spearheaded the technology’s development in conjunction with ORNL co-inventors Parans Paranthaman, Daniela Bogorin, David Christen, Brian D’Urso and John Simpson.

The project was supported by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program and Technology Innovation Program.

To be superhydrophobic, a surface must have a water droplet contact angle exceeding 150 degrees. ORNL’s coating has a contact angle of 155 to 165 degrees, forming a veritable shield for glass displays.

Water droplets that hit the treated surface pancake and bounce off.

By contrast, Aytug said Rain-X, a well-known hydrophobic silicone polymer that is most commonly applied to glass automobile surfaces, has a less-effective contact angle of 100 to 120 degrees.

The ORNL research team developed the superhydrophobic technology by depositing a thin glass film on a glass surface and heating the coated glass to transform the surface into two material compositions.

A selective etching process produces a porous three dimensional network of high-silica content glass that resembles microscopic coral and enables water-repellent and antireflective properties.

Aytug said the ORNL technology mimics superhydrophobic properties found in nature.

“The lotus plant and many other plants have superhydrophobic properties where they shed rain drops,” said Aytug. “That was the trigger for people to look into its structure.”

Some other common plants whose leaves demonstrate superhydrophobicity are broccoli and cabbage.

Researchers also found inspiration for the technology by mimicking the structure of moth eyes, which are anti-reflective.

Aytug said the potential commercial applications of the technology are significant.

“I’ve been contacted by about 50 companies about the technology,” he said. “I’ve heard from companies that produce architectural windows, solar panels and even a company that makes dental mirrors.”

Aytug said there is a huge untapped market to license the technology to companies that manufacture architectural windows.

“Windows in skyscrapers can be coated, which will allow more light coming in, will cut down on the reflection of light and you won’t have to clean them,” he said. “There is a huge potential there.”

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Mike Blackerby

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