CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have created a class of material structures that can repel oils and which also have applications in aviation and space travel.
Aside from use in hazardous waste removal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers said the new material could protect parts of airplanes or rockets, such as rubber gaskets and o-rings, that are vulnerable to damage from being soaked in fuel.
"These are vulnerable points in many aerospace applications," said Professor Robert Cohen. "It would be nice if you could spill gasoline on a fabric or a gasket or other surface and find that instead of spreading, it just rolled off."
The MIT team designed a type of material composed of specially prepared microfibers that essentially cushion droplets of liquid, allowing them to sit, intact, just above the material's surface. When oil droplets land on the material, they rest atop the fibers and pockets of air trapped between the fibers.
The study that included postdoctoral researcher Anish Tuteja, graduate students Wonjae Choi and Minglin Ma, Professor Gregory Rutledge and Joseph Mabry and Sarah Mazzella of the Air Force Research Laboratory appears in the Dec. 7 issue of the journal Science.