We introduce a new type of hybrid material: a nanostructured elastomer covered by a hard photoactive metal-oxide thin film resembling the exoskeleton of insects. It has extreme water repellency and fast self-recovery after damage. A new fabrication method for replicating high aspect ratio, hierarchical re-entrant aluminum structures into polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is presented. The method is based on a protective titania layer deposited by atomic layer deposition (ALD) on the aluminum template. The ALD titania transfers to the elastomeric scaffold via sacrificial release etching. The sacrificial release method allows for high aspect ratio, even 100 μm deep and successful release of overhanging structures, unlike conventional peeling. The ALD titania conformally covers the 3D multihierarchical structures of the template and protects the polymer during the release etch. Afterwards it prevents the high aspect ratio nanostructures from elasticity based collapse. The resulting nanostructured hybrid PDMS/titania replicas display robust superhydrophobicity without any further fluoro-coating or modification. Their mechanical and thermal robustness results from a thick nanostructured elastomeric layer which is conformally covered by ceramic titania instead of a monolayer hydrophobic coating. We have demonstrated the durability of these replicas against mechanical abrasion, knife scratches, rubbing, bending, peel tape test, high temperature annealing, UV exposure, water jet impingement and long term underwater storage. Though the material loses its superhydrophobicity in oxygen plasma exposure, a fast recovery from superhydrophilic to superhydrophobic can be achieved after 20 min UV irradiation. UV-assisted recovery is correlated with the high photoactivity of ALD titania film. This novel hybrid material will be applicable to the large area superhydrophobic surfaces in practical outdoor applications.
- Robust superhydrophobic
- self-healing network
- ALD (atomic layer deposition)
- hierarchical structures
- biomimetic exoskeleton