Research physicists at the UK's University of Surrey have developed what they claim is a simple, low-cost way to make textured coatings that could reduce the drag resistance of aircraft or ships. The technique makes it possible to create plastic coatings with small bumps and ridges in sizes ranging from less than a millimetre to a couple of centimetres.
With the right design, this texture will reduce the drag forces when large vessels pass through air or water, says professor Joseph Keddie, who led the research: "Our process can create coatings with nearly any desired texture to meet the particular requirements of an application."
© University of Surrey
Textured coating on a glass plate
The process, called "infrared radiation-assisted evaporative lithography", uses beams of infrared light to heat certain spots on wet coatings made of tiny plastic particles in water. The hotter spots evaporate more quickly, and the plastic particles are then guided there as the evaporating water is replaced. The textured coatings can be used to cover nearly any surface, says Keddie.
Other potential applications include the creation of tiny lenses to focus light, for use in digital cameras, photocopiers, and solar cells.
However, the first industrial applications may be aesthetic: the research team is exploring ways to make its technique useable by makers of domestic products.