New Laser System to Create Grease-Repellent Metal Surfaces

Coordinated in Germany by the Technical University Dresden, the LAMpAS consortium announced the introduction of a new way of creating grease-repellent metal surfaces. Metal is treated by new high-power laser that ‘textures’ metal surface with microscopic spikes.

Rough micro topography acts like a ‘bed of nails’ to stop dirt or liquid from attaching.

Preventing water, dirt or grease from ever attaching, the treated metal will mean fridges or oven doors remain clean for a longer period, without using detergents or heat.

‘Textured’ by some of the most powerful lasers in the world, this new laser-treated metal will have microscopic ‘spikes’ or ‘ridges’ that act like a bed of nails and stop dirt or liquids attaching themselves.

The laser creates an ‘amphiphobic’ – or repellent to water and oils – surface upon the metal similar to the defense mechanisms found in nature like Lotus leaves or springtails’ skin, enabling water and oil to simply ‘roll off’. Similar micro-nano-structures reduce the build-up of bacteria meaning a surface never becomes dirty.

Although this work is currently being carried out on metal, the scientists say the laser-structuring technique works with other materials, like plastic and glass.

The direct laser treatment of the surface – what the team calls ‘surface functionalization’ or a way of altering the properties of the surface – therefore, provides an environmentally friendly and much safer alternative to surface coatings like Teflon.

LAMpAS project coordinator Prof. Dr. Andrés Fabian Lasagni said: “We are targeting related use cases: machines in the food processing sector that need be continually cleaned and where hygiene is paramount, medical surfaces in hospitals, packaging machines in the pharma industry that need to be disinfected.”

The Laser Technology Leader in the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) Dr. Francesca Moglia said: “The treatment of surfaces with special laser radiation and beam transport systems to improve their antibacterial properties opens up new frontiers in applications. LAMpAS is using high-power ultrashort-pulsed lasers to create a rough micro-topography on sheet metal that will cause liquids to ‘glide’ across the surface, thus, reducing the formation of a biofilm.”

Called ‘LAMpAS’ (short for the ‘high throughput Laser structuring with Multiscale Periodic feature sizes for Advanced Surface Functionalities’) the team is working on producing self-cleaning metal sheets on an industrial scale.

“The idea of using photonics or high-powered lasers to create tiny structures on metal is nothing new but has always been too expensive to produce and too time-consuming. Our laser system will allow us to treat more than 1 square meter of sheet metal per minute covering a potentially growing market that could reach nine-digit revenues per year in the home-appliance sector alone. With our innovative Direct Laser Interference Pattering (DLIP) – Polygon Scanner head we will be able to treat metal with a 1.5 kW novel ps-laser source, with scanning speeds over 100 m/s,” said Prof. Dr. Lasagni.

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