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Tropical plant inspires coating for medical use

8 January 2014

Tropical plant inspires coating for medical use

Chemical Engineers have been able to mimic a pitcher plant’s inner skin design to produce a transparent coating capable of being applied to any object.

The pitcher plant has a special adaptation which creates a near frictionless surface with unique self-healing properties. It ‘locks-in’ a lubricant layer onto the surface of its skin which cannot be penetrated by another liquid and is more damage tolerant.

The team at Harvard University developed a multi-stage coating process which involves attaching a thin, rough layer of porous silica particles which are used to lock-in a lubricating layer onto the surface to be protected. Its diverse application could include acting a coating on medical implants to aid blood flow.

This latest development in coating technology reached the finals of this year’s Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Awards in the UK.

IChemE’s chief executive, Dr David Brown, said: “Some existing coatings have limitations including contamination and degradation by contaminants, lack of self-healing capabilities and damage tolerance.

“By mimicking the pitcher plant’s skin structure, Harvard University’s new coating self-heals almost instantly, even if scraped with a knife or blade. It is capable of operating in extreme temperatures and high pressure, and can be applied to surfaces ranging from metals and semiconductors, to paper and cotton fabric.” 

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