Environmentally responsive clean coatings

Contributions to the design of an environmentally adaptable self-cleaning polymer coating that incorporates aspects of the nanoscale surface properties of Lotus and Lady's Mantle plant leaves.

There has always been great interest in materials capable of adapting or switching function in response to stimuli. These switchable materials can be used for a range of applications from LCD displays to fabrics. Such ’smart’ materials are also found in many biological systems including human body, and are important for processes such as hearing and touch sensitivity.

In nature, plants make use of fascinating nanoscale surface properties to maintain their original clean state. An example of this is the lotus plant, which is considered the ’holy-grail’ of natural self-cleaning systems. The surface of the lotus leaf exhibits a complex structure that incorporates both nanoscale and micro-scale roughness. The plant’s self-cleaning mechanism arises from a combination of multiple-length roughness and inherent hydrophobicity. Another example of natural self-cleaning ability is the leaves of the Lady’s Mantle. These leaves are covered by flexible hydrophilic hairs which impart dirt-shielding behaviour by lifting water-born contaminants from the surface.

While there has been considerable effort undertaken to replicate natural self-cleaning behaviour in synthetic polymer surfaces, a long-lasting solution has yet to be realised.

In this project, we proposed a novel approach to model an environmentally adaptable self-cleaning polymer coating that incorporates aspects of both the lotus leaf and Lady’s Mantle. The work was carried out using classical molecular dynamics simulations, and the understanding gained from this work will be used to drive synthesis of stay-clean polymer coatings applicable to building products such as Bluescope Steel’s Colorbond®.

Responsive chains on silica surface Responsive chains on silica surface

Grants and funding

Funded by the ARC Linkage grant LP0990511 and BlueScope Steel.

Key people

RMIT University

Murdoch University

  • Dr David Henry, Chief Investigator


BlueScope Steel

  • Dr Evan Evans
  • Dr Shane MacLaughlin


Book chapter

  • Application of Molecular Simulation to Coatings Design, G. Yiapanis, D. J. Henry, E. J. Evans and I. Yarovsky, in "Nanotechnologyin Australia: Showcasing Early Career Research", Eds. D. M. Kane, A. P. Micolich and J. R. Rabeau, ISBN: 9789814310024, Pan Stanford Publishing, 2011

Refereed journal papers

  • Nanoscale Wetting and Fouling Resistance of Functionalized Surfaces: a Computational Approach, G. Yiapanis, S. Maclaughlin, E. Evans and I.Yarovsky, Langmuir 30 (2014) 10617−10625
  • Surface Crosslinking Effects on Contamination Resistance of Functionalised Polymers, L. A. Shaw, G. Yiapanis, D.J. Henry, S. MacLaughlin, E.Evans and I. Yarovsky, Soft Matter, 9 (2013) 1798-1806
  • Effect of Substrate on the Mechanical Response and Adhesion of PEGylated Surfaces: Insights from All-Atom Simulations, G. Yiapanis, D.J. Henry, S.MacLaughlin, E.J.Evans and I. Yarovsky, Langmuir 28 (2012) 17263-17272
  • Simulations of Nanoindentation of Polymer Surfaces: Effects of Surface Cross-Linking on Adhesion and Hardness, G. Yiapanis, D. J. Henry, E.J. Evans and I. Yarovsky, J. Phys. Chem. C, 114 (2010) 478-486
  • Molecular Dynamics Study of Polyester Surfaces and Fullerene Particles in Aqueous Environment, G. Yiapanis, D.J. Henry, E.J. Evans and I. Yarovsky, J. Phys. Chem. C, 112(2008)18141
  • Effect of ageing on interfacial adhesion of polyester and carbon based particles: a Classical Molecular Dynamics Study, G. Yiapanis, D. Henry, E. Evans and I. Yarovsky, J. Phys. Chem. C, 111 (2007) 6465
  • A Molecular Dynamics study of siloxane diffusion in a polyester-melamine solution, D. Henry, E. Evans and I. Yarovsky, Polymer, 48 (2007) 2179-2185.
  • The Effect of Surface Composition and Atomic Roughness on Interfacial Adhesion between Polyester and Amorphous Carbon, G. Yiapanis, D. Henry, E. Evans and I. Yarovsky, J. Phys. Chem. C, 111 (2007) 3000-3009.
  • Colorbond® meets Nanotech: understanding coating’s interactions with the environment, I. Yarovsky, D. Henry, G. Yiapanis, E. Evans, Chemistryin Australia, 2006, 73, 3, 11-13. Feature article (invited).
  • Classical Molecular Dynamics Study of C60 Fullerene Interactions with Silica and Polyester Surfaces, D. Henry, E. Evans and I. Yarovsky, J.Phys. Chem B., 2006, 110, 15963-15972.
  • Adhesion between graphite and modified polyester surfaces: a theoretical study, D. Henry, G. Yiapanis, E.Evans and I. Yarovsky, J.Phys. Chem. B, 2005, 109, 17224 17231.
  • Theoretical Study of Adhesion between Graphite, Polyester and Silica Surfaces, D.J. Henry, C. A. Lukey, E.J. Evans, and I. Yarovsky, Molecular Simulation, 2005, 31, 449-455.
  • Computer Simulation of Structure and properties of crosslinked polymers: application to epoxy resins, I. Yarovsky, E.Evans, Polymer, 2002, 43, 963-969.
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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer