Self-cleaning materials will cut detergent use

Washington, DC — Scientists have developed an eco-friendly coating for glass, plastics and other materials which allows oily stains to be wiped away easily with plain water.

The polymer coatings have a bottom layer of polyethylene glycol, which attracts water, and an upper layer of a Teflon-like molecule that prevents the passage of oil. The result is a surface that holds a film of water while repelling oil.

“You add water, and the oil just comes right off like magic,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Youngblood. “These are eco-friendly coatings – environmentally ‘green’ in the sense that they eliminate the need for harsh detergents and solvents in settings ranging from home kitchens to industrial machine shops that must contend with heavy oil spills.”

The materials could be used in a range of consumer and industrial products, Youngblood said. They include household cleaners, easy-to-clean paints, water filters that separate water from oil, sealants for concrete floors and walls that repel oil in home garages and auto repair shops. In addition, anti-fog coatings could be used on windshields or eyewear, including everyday lenses and fog-free scuba masks.

The team expects self-cleaning plastics to be commerically available within a few years.