Temperature-induced evolution of microstructures on poly[ethylene-co-(vinyl acetate)] substrates switches their underwater wettability


Material surfaces with tailored aerophobicity are crucial for applications where gas bubble wettability has to be controlled, e.g., gas storage and transport, electrodes, bioreactors or medical devices. Here, we present switchable underwater aerophobicity of hydrophobic polymeric substrates, which respond to heat with multilevel micro- and nanotopographical changes. The cross-linked poly[ethylene-co-(vinyl acetate)] substrates possess arrays of microcylinders with a nanorough top surface. It is hypothesized that the specific micro-/nanotopography of the surface allows trapping of a water film at the micro interspace and in this way generates the aerophobic behavior. The structured substrates were programmed to a temporarily stable, nanoscale flat substrate showing aerophilic behavior. Upon heating, the topographical changes caused a switch in contact angle from aerophilic to aerophobic for approaching air bubbles. In this way, the initial adhesion of air bubbles to the programmed flat substrate could be turned into repellence for the recovered substrate surface. The temperature at which the repellence of air bubbles starts can be adjusted from 58 ± 3 °C to 73 ± 3 °C by varying the deformation temperature applied during the temperature-memory programming procedure. The presented actively switching polymeric substrates are attractive candidates for applications, where an on-demand gas bubble repellence is advantageous.
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