Superhydrophobic Textiles: Fashionable Raincoats

Alex Wu and Robert N. Lamb

School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne

Imagine a typical Melbourne day, sunny one moment, pouring the next. We’ve all had our fair share of drenching either because of a missing raincoat, or a broken umbrella. Even with an umbrella, our pants will still be wet from the knee down. But what if our clothes are made of textiles that can’t be wet? What if our clothes are made of superhydrophobic textiles?

A simple literature search on superhydrophobic surfaces would often result in publications that cite textiles as a potential application. To date, there have been an extremely limited number of studies that report a successful integration of superhydrophobic characteristics into textiles. Furthermore, even less report whether such integration will affect the quality, colour, handle and strength of the textile.

Our group possesses one of the first superhydrophobic textile patents in the world that reports silk-like handle (unlike plastic-like Goretex) that also exhibits resilience against standard laundry washing1.

The goal of this project is to expand our current knowledge and technology in imparting superhydrophobic characteristics onto various textiles. As various textiles possess differences in surface roughness and chemistry, the main challenge of this project is to achieve robustness and versatility without compromising important textile characteristics such as handle, colour and strength.

1. Lamb, R., Norman & Zhang, H. Hydrophobic and Lyophobic Coating. (2006). EP1802721