At Last, No More Dishpan Hands: New Coating Could Eliminate Detergents


Dr. Jeffrey Youngblood; Photo by David Umberger, Purdue University

The New York Times writes about the work of Jeffrey P. Youngblood of Purdue University, who has been working on new plastic coatings that may eliminate the need for detergents and soaps. "We want to cut soap out of the equation for cleanup," says Youngblood.


It will also keep mirrors from fogging. Image: Kirsten L. Genson

Where normally soap is needed to cause grease and oil to disperse into water, the new coatings "get the oil to remove itself."

Discovery News
wrote about it earlier, explaining how it works:

"Most surfaces that repel oils are inherently very water repellant as well. This works great for making something 'non-stick', but when the surface does get dirty, it's basically impossible to clean the oil off without using soap," said polymer scientist Ryan Hayward of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"Youngblood's group has introduced a clever twist to this picture by directly incorporating soap-like components in their polymer coatings," he added.

"These materials are resistant to oils but at the same time can be easily wet by water, meaning that an oil-coated surface can be cleaned simply by rinsing with water. If these polymers can be made into robust coatings or fabrics, they could have real potential for reducing the amount of detergent that we use."

Youngblood explained it with a bit more science in Chemistry World:

Youngblood says that this surface works because of the different interactions between the fluorinated polymer and the different liquids. When hexadecane (oil) 'sees' the oleophobic perfluorinated end of the polymer, it beads up, he explains. Whereas the water 'sees' the hydrophilic polyethylene glycol end, and therefore wets the material. The ratio of comonomers added during the synthesis of the polymer is varied to suit different situations.

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