March 4, 2024

New Coating Developed to Remove Aqueous Microfoulants

Researchers in Switzerland and the US have developed a new coating that can remove up to 98% of deposits under shear flow conditions. The development of this coating is significant in addressing the issue of scale formation, a process known as crystallization fouling that affects industries such as energy and water. Crystallization fouling occurs when scale forms on surfaces, causing problems in energy and water production. The researchers aimed to design surfaces that would resist fouling and eliminate the need for energy-intensive cleaning processes.

The team used a micro-scanning fluid dynamic gauge system to study the dynamics of microfoulants, which are particles that adhere to surfaces in dynamic aqueous environments. By understanding how microfoulants adhere and designing a coating accordingly, they were able to develop a surface that can remove a significant amount of deposits. This coating has important implications for the water and energy industries, as it provides a sustainable and cost-efficient alternative to traditional cleaning methods.

Previous research focused on developing rigid antifouling surfaces that alter the surface energy of materials to prevent fouling. However, this study looked at developing soft materials with microtexturing to improve antifouling properties. By studying the physics of microfoulant adhesion and creating a micro-scanning fluid dynamic gauge, the researchers identified three underlying mechanisms of microfoulant removal and used this information to design a microtextured coating. They tested the scalability of the coating under laminar and turbulent flow conditions to ensure its effectiveness.

The researchers also studied the wettability of the substrates to quantify the removal of microfoulants. They used a tunable laminar water shear flow to remove calcium carbonate crystallites and observed the process using a glass capillary. They found that the individual events of crystallite removal were rapid, allowing for the removal of crystallites before the buildup of tenacious scale layers. This has significant implications for the development of antifouling materials and coatings.

In addition to studying crystallization fouling, the researchers also looked at particulate fouling. They settled microfoulants on the coating and performed experiments to detect the interactions between the microfoulants and the coating. The outcomes of the study highlighted the excellent scale-phobicity of the coating, with a substantial number of crystallites being removed almost immediately after initiating flow.

The researchers also explored the versatility of antifouling materials and found that different design strategies are needed depending on the dominant fouling mechanism. For particulate fouling, rigid coating surfaces performed well, while soft coatings were more effective for crystallization fouling. Hydrogels with low polymer content showed excellent removal performance for both types of fouling.

This study provides valuable insights into the dynamics of fouling and the development of antifouling surfaces. The researchers have developed a method to study the underlying physics of microfoulant adhesion and removal, which can be used to improve the design and effectiveness of antifouling materials. This has important implications for industries such as energy and water, where fouling can significantly impact operations and efficiency.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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