We investigate the physical chemistry of interfaces – this is a multidisciplinary field spanning the traditional disciplines of chemistry, physics, materials science and bio-engineering.
Our focus is predominantly on phenomena that occur when liquids are confined on the nano-scale (such as in microfluidics) and on designing surfaces that have advanced functional properties (such as superhydrophobic surfaces and patterned coatings).
This project aims at identifying the nano-scale interfacial properties that make surfaces slippery. Interfacial slip has important consequences for liquid flow in confined geometries, such as in microfluidics devices, porous media, and in biological flows.
We have developed a new surface structuring approach that could lead to the ability to capture water from moist air, mimicking the clever use of surface topography present in the Stenocara beetle.
These patterns can successfully condense moisture from the atmosphere, and let droplets easily roll off the substrate, so they could be used to collect many liters of water from fog-laden winds in a localised manner, for use in irrigation or in our homes.
The spontaneous instability occurring in thin liquid films on non-wettable substrates (dewetting) can be exploited to produce patterns on a substrate. The structured films can be used to pattern polymer layers, and in turn to produce micro-pattern that are functional. Patterning can be achieved at length-scales from a few hundred nanometers to several tens of micrometers in a manner that is simple, cost-effective, and rapid.
The chemical and physical properties of surfaces can be modified in a dramatic way by applying a single molecularly-thin layer on the surface. The layer of adsorbed molecules can be tuned to achieve specific function, such as low friction, high water repellence, and altered material band gap. The modified surfaces can be used in a large range of problems, including, through molecular recognition, to purify water from dissolved organic contaminants.
The hydrophobicity of a surface can be enhanced by increasing the surface roughness. We are interested in developing new approaches that rely on simple self-assembly mechanisms for the modification of surface properties and for the fabrication of superhydrophobic surfaces, such as the precipitation of salts, and the deposition of metals on substrates.
Slippery liquid infused surfaces formed through the spontaneous wrinkling of a rigid Teflon film are fabricated and investigated. The produced wrinkled surfaces dramatically inhibit the attachment of marine fouling bacteria, prevent fouling by oils, and have promise to significantly reduce hydrodynamic drag of liquids, therefore improving the efficiency of underwater transport. Their robustness compares well with commercial coatings used currently in wettability control.
For information about opportunities to work or collaborate with the Neto Group, contact Associate Professor Chiara Neto via Research Supervisor Connect.