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Hydrophobicity of rare-earth oxide ceramics


Hydrophobic materials that are robust to harsh environments are needed in a broad range of applications1,2,3. Although durable materials such as metals and ceramics, which are generally hydrophilic, can be rendered hydrophobic by polymeric modifiers4, these deteriorate in harsh environments. Here we show that a class of ceramics comprising the entire lanthanide oxide series, ranging from ceria to lutecia, is intrinsically hydrophobic. We attribute their hydrophobicity to their unique electronic structure, which inhibits hydrogen bonding with interfacial water molecules. We also show with surface-energy measurements that polar interactions are minimized at these surfaces and with Fourier transform infrared/grazing-angle attenuated total reflection that interfacial water molecules are oriented in the hydrophobic hydration structure. Moreover, we demonstrate that these ceramic materials promote dropwise condensation, repel impinging water droplets, and sustain hydrophobicity even after exposure to harsh environments. Rare-earth oxide ceramics should find widespread applicability as robust hydrophobic surfaces.

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Figure 1: Schematic of the orientation of water molecules and the associated wetting properties of a surface.
Figure 2: Surface characterization and wetting properties of sintered REOs.
Figure 3: Steam condensation and water repellency on smooth REO substrates.
Figure 4: Thermal stability, abrasive-wear resistance and sustained hydrophobicity.
Figure 5: Superhydrophobicity and water repellency of REO-coated textured surfaces.


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We are grateful for support from the NSF Career Award (0952564), Dupont-MIT Alliance, MIT Energy Initiative, and DARPA Young Faculty Award. We thank S. Speakman from CMSE at MIT for supporting XRD characterizations and K. Broderick from MTL at MIT for help with sputtering. We thank R. Cohen of MIT for carefully reading and commenting on the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



K.K.V. and G.A. conceived the research. K.K.V. supervised the research. G.A. fabricated the sintered pellets and coated substrates, carried out surface wettability and surface-energy characterization, and performed SEM, XPS, XRD and FTIR-GATR characterizations. A.T.P. and G.A. conducted steam condensation experiments. H-M.K. fabricated textured surfaces and prepared the Supplementary Movies. R.D. and G.A. carried out drop impact tests. G.A. carried out the high-temperature stability and abrasive-wear tests and measured the materials’ hardness. All authors contributed to writing and revising the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kripa K. Varanasi.

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Azimi, G., Dhiman, R., Kwon, HM. et al. Hydrophobicity of rare-earth oxide ceramics. Nature Mater 12, 315–320 (2013).

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