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Lotus leaf inspires self-cleaning metals

A team of European researchers have yoked new photonics technology to develop the first fluid-repellent, antibacterial, metal surface taking a step closer to selfcleaning saucepans, toilets, and dishwashers. Taking their ideas from defence mechanisms found in plants such as the Lotus leaf, the High Throughput Laser Texturing of Self- Cleaning and Antibacterial Surfaces, or TresClean project, has made a breakthrough that will enable the production of selfcleaning sheet metal on an industrial scale for the first time.

TresClean has used high-power laser cutting devices to create microscopic spikes and ridges in sheet metal, causing liquids to bounce off the rough micro-topography that mimics the surface of the Lotus leaf. This roughened surface creates miniature pockets of air that minimises the contact area between the surface and a liquid, almost like standing on a bed of needles. This new technique will be used to create antibacterial surfaces for use in the food production industry – increasing productivity and reducing costs in factories which process biological food products such as milk, tomato sauce, and yoghurt.

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