New Laser Etching Method for Waterproof Steel May Create Opportunities for the Steel Fabrication Industry

Industrial laser machine

The Industrial Age gave us the convenience of fabricating steel into its many uses, from machines to construction. Even now, in the Age of Information, you can purchase steel online from steel fabrication companies such as Wasatch Steel.

Specific steel products, however, still have their limitations against fluids. Besides rust or corrosion, they are prone to slippage and damage when wet. Creating non-stick surfaces is usually done through chemical treatment. Common, non-stick surfaces are temporary and hard to clean. They are also not completely hydrophobic.

For these surfaces to repel water, a 70-degree tilt in the surface is needed. This may result in harder to clean surfaces that lead to the wearing off of coating. A team from the University of Rochester, however, seems to have found a newer, more permanent solution.

Led by Professor Chunlei Guo, the team zapped metals like platinum and titanium with femtosecond laser pulses, creating nanoscopic grooves. It allowed the surface to not only repel fluids but have fluids bounce off it. As liquid hits the treated surface, it gathers other particles around, making the surface virtually self-cleaning. This quality of super hydrophobia has yet to be created anywhere else, and the team is optimistic that such revolutionary advancement will lead to innovations in science, agriculture, and medical industries.

This same process was used by the same team to create super hydrophilic – or water-attracting – surfaces and blacken metals to make them more efficient at gathering light.

But Professor Philip Moriarty of the University of Nottingham warns against the process, saying that not only is this method expensive and experimental, but it could also lead to compromising the structural integrity of the metal.

“By roughening up the surface, you change the optical properties dramatically,” he adds. “The most interesting aspect is that you’re modifying the optical properties and the wetting properties in concert.”

Nevertheless, Professor Guo remains optimistic, especially since he has garnered support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.