A new coating solution discovered by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, can transform regular materials into waterproof surfaces. The university reports that the product will be free of harmful fluorinated compounds, and effective on a variety of materials. SFU chemistry professor and project lead Hogan Yu estimates that their patented waterproofing solution will also be up to 90 percent cheaper to produce.
The new formula was invented at Yu’s lab when SFU graduate student Lishen Zhang and another student were working on an experiment in 2016. The student used a reagent that had been left open for a few days, surprisingly generating waterproof surfaces. “At the time we believed the extended air exposure led to the degradation of the reagent, which inspired Lishen to explore an unconventional reaction that is now critical to our coating technology,” says Yu.
Tests have shown that the treated surfaces remain waterproof for at least 18 months and further testing is underway to determine their performance over an even longer time period or under harsh physical conditions.
Beyond waterproof clothing, the researchers anticipate that their invention could be applied in creating antibiofouling, stain-resistant coatings for iron or steel, anti-icing and water-repelling paint for building construction, as well as efficient membranes for water-oil separation.
“Since the method to produce this waterproofing solution is simple and low-cost, the production can also be easily scaled up for industrial and commercial applications,” Yu says.
The team’s research findings have been published in Nature Communications. Yu and his team are currently discussing it commercializing the product with businesses and investors.