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Rational design of perfluorocarbon-free oleophobic textiles


Water- and oil-repellent fabrics have global application within the textile industry and as technical apparel. Fabric finishes utilizing perfluoro compounds (PFCs) are known to uniquely render textiles both water and oil repellent. However, PFC-based finishes are not sustainable because they compromise environmental and human health, and garment factories have accordingly begun to phase out PFC usage. This is problematic, as all previous studies on fabric finishes indicate that oil repellency cannot be achieved without perfluorination. Here we develop design parameters for fabricating oil-repellent textile finishes using PFC-free surface chemistries. By adding a secondary, smaller length-scale texture to each fibre of a given weave, robust oil repellency is achievable when the texture size, spacing and surface chemistry are properly controlled. For example, a PFC-free, oil-repellent jacket fabric is fabricated that exhibits oleophobicity towards canola, olive and castor oil in addition to synthetic sweat. The textile remains non-wetted for liquids with surface tension as low as 23.9 mN m−1. The equations developed in this work allow for the rational design of oil-repellent textile finishes that do not utilize perfluorinated substances.

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Fig. 1: Contact angle of wetted fabrics.
Fig. 2: Wettability of non-wetted fibres, particles and particles decorating fibres.
Fig. 3: Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics.
Fig. 4: Oleophobic metal meshes.
Fig. 5: Oleophobic fabrics.
Fig. 6: Predicting fabric oleophobicity.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


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We thank the Syilx Okanagan Nation for use of their unceded territory, the land on which the research was conducted. We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), through grants CRDPJ 531817–18 and EGP 532173–18, as well as support from Arc’teryx Equipment Inc. and lululemon athletica.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



S.S. designed and conducted all experiments, derived the theoretical framework and wrote the manuscript. B.K. helped with surface modification. A.N. measured weave porosity and wrote the manuscript. K.G. conceived the research, designed the experiments, derived the theoretical framework and wrote the manuscript. All authors edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin Golovin.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Contact angle of wetted fabrics for decane and tert-butylnaphthalene.

Apparent contact angles of decane (D), γLV = 23.8 mN m−1 42, and tert-butylnaphthalene (tBN), γLV = 33.7 mN m−1 45, on rough surfaces in terms of their Wenzel roughness, for four different surface chemistries: perfluorinated (-CF3), fluorinated (-CF2), alkyl (-CH3), and polydimthylsiloxane (PDMS). The values for the Young’s contact angles of these two liquids on the four surface chemistries are found in45.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Wettability of non-wetted fibers and particles.

a, Decane and b, tert-butylnaphthalene apparent contact angles on fibers, \(\theta _{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries, against the porosity of the fibers, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\). c, Decane and d, tert-butylnaphthalene apparent contact angles on particles, \(\theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries, against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Robustness of fabrics.

The robustness parameter (solid lines), \(A_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), and apparent contact angle (dashed lines), \(\theta _{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), of a, decane and b, tert-butylnaphthalene on fibers against the porosity of the fibers, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics for other liquids.

Design diagrams for oleophobic fabrics considering a, decane (D) and b, tert-butylnaphthalene (tBN) as the low surface tension liquids. Design diagrams for superoleophobic fabrics considering c, decane (D) and d, tert-butylnaphthalene as the low surface tension liquids. In ad, the porosity of the fabric, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), is plotted against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), for four possible surface chemistries. The assumed fiber diameter was R = 10 µm.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Meniscus position on hierarchical textures.

Schematic of a low surface tension liquid on fibers decorated with particles with the liquid meniscus sitting at a, the fibers (θ=θY) and b, the particles \(\left( {\theta = \theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast } \right)\). c, The robustness parameter of fibers decorated by particles as a function of the assumed contact angle observed on the fibers. In Equation 5 we assume \(\theta = \theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\) but previously θ=θY has been assumed37.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics of different radii.

Hexadecane design diagrams for oleophobic fabrics with a, R = 1 µm and b, R = 50 µm. Hexadecane design diagrams for superoleophobic fabrics with c, R = 1 µm and d, R = 50 µm. In ad the porosity of the fabric, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), is plotted against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), for four possible surface chemistries.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Geometric schematics of fibers.

a, A schematic of the woven metal meshes used in this work. b, SEM image of the nylon jacket fabric (D* ≈ 1.5) indicating a unit cell of yarns and open area. c, Schematic diagram of the wire cross-section touching the liquid meniscus.

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Shabanian, S., Khatir, B., Nisar, A. et al. Rational design of perfluorocarbon-free oleophobic textiles. Nat Sustain 3, 1059–1066 (2020).

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