The Nano-Interfaces lab within the Key Centre for Polymers and Colloids in the School of Chemistry focuses on nanoscale phenomena that occur at liquid/solid interfaces.
I am fascinated by natural patterns on surfaces, their functionality and beauty, and how they can be mimicked to develop functional nanostructured surfaces that address the 21st century energy crisis.
One area of my research involves working with superhydrophobic (extremely water-repellent) surfaces that mimic the way a lotus leaf repels water.1, 2 Water rolls rather than slide off a lotus leaf, taking with it any dust particles and keeping the leaf dry and clean. Such self-cleaning coatings have many applications, from self-cleaning paint to anti-fouling coatings. Along with colleague Associate Professor Brian Hawkett, we have a long-standing and successful collaboration with paint industry partner Dulux Australia.3
Another area of interest is the nanoscale investigation of fluid flow against solid surfaces. By finely controlling the chemistry and topography of surfaces, we are able to induce ‘interfacial slip’, thus reducing hydrodynamic drag.4, 5 This knowledge can be applied to enable objects to move more quickly through water, reducing energy needs and environmental pollution.
I am also working to develop functional micro-patterned surfaces, such as one that mimics an African desert beetle, which harvests water from fog.6, 7 Their mostly waxy shells are micro-patterned with special patches where water condensation can occur, and as this condensation continues, the drops of water run along a water-repellent background into the beetle’s mouth. From this example, I developed a family of micro- and nano-patterned surface coatings that can capture atmospheric water and alleviate water scarcity in arid places or in emergency situations.