Aqua Magic | AIChE

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Aqua Magic

“A river is more than an amenity; it is a treasure.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Modern technologies have allowed us to harness the world’s available water for energy and industrial purposes, but these technologies have failed us in finding a solution to the ever increasing industrial water scarcity. This module has found a way to help millions of global citizens who are facing challenges due to scarcity of water and support the UN Water Program and other international agencies working on water and sanitation issues.

Borrowing from one of nature's most water-repellent surfaces, the leaf of the lotus plants, our national flower, scientists have developed a simple, inexpensive way to create synthetic coatings with exceptional anti-wetting properties. This module’s experimentation is also based on this idea that would teach students some of the most interesting yet complicated concepts of Chemistry in an elementary manner.

The structure of a lotus leaf discourages surface wetting in two ways, firstly through a waxy nonpolar coating, and secondly because of a rough structure which makes surface interactions less favourable, allowing water to bead up into spheres and easily roll off the leaf. This phenomenon is known as the “lotus effect".

Water also picks up and carries any foreign material, such as dust or dirt, as it passes through the superhydrophobic surface. Students would learn how plants naturally create and use superhydrophobic surfaces, as well as how these surfaces would be manufactured. They would also learn about the tendency of all superhydrophobic surfaces to form water droplets that do not roll off the surface but become "stuck" under certain conditions, such as condensation droplets.

By studying the waterproofing techniques of a lotus leaf, we can create a coating that aids in solving the water crisis.

Various properties of this coating can also be used in other real-life scenarios by utilizing it as an antifungal coating, as an anti-corrosive coating. Some products which are engineered recently include coatings that reduce the water drag on boats and protect surfaces and equipment exposed to fresh or saltwater, building materials that remain clean with little maintenance and are better protected from wear from the elements, textiles that are resistant to staining and/or remain dry when submerged in water and coatings for electronics to waterproof your next smartphone. These same techniques can be applied for other uses as well. For example, Dr. Bharat Bhushan of Ohio State University has developed a material that "if scaled up, you could potentially catch an oil spill with a net."

The module is designed to be lucid, and the ideas will be taught in an engaging approach to maintain students' attention and make the learning process enjoyable. This module's target audience would be students in grades 9th to 12th.

This module aspires to educate young minds about the importance of sustainability via the concept of hydrophobicity and instill curiosity about STEM.

Module details
TopicsPhysical Chemistry
Best-suited audienceArray
Approx. time requirement5 minutes
AIChE community affiliationVellore Institute of Technology AIChE Student Chapter
Approx. # of volunteers1
Recommended audience sizeAny size