Jan. 9 - Through a nano-engineering process, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have changed the chemical properties of paper to give it the ability to repel liquid more efficiently and at lower cost than existing materials. As Ben Gruber reports, it looks and feels like conventional paper, but that's where the similarities end.
Paper towel is prized in kitchens around the world for its ability to absorb liquid. But scientists at Georgia Tech are developing a new type of paper, one engineered to do exactly the opposite. Professor Dennis Hess says water repellent paper products have a host of applications, from packaging material that doesn't get damaged in the rain, to new types of medical devices. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DENNIS HESS, PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL AND BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "Biomedical tests where we can incorporate some sort of sensor material that would react with something in blood or some sort of bodily fluid that would allow testing very quickly, very cheaply, and very easily." Working on the nano-scale, Hess and his team roughen the paper's surface, a multi-step process designed to remove the outer, absorbent cellulose layer. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DENNIS HESS, PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL AND BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "After we roughen the surface, we deposit a fluorocarbon film that is about 100 nanometers thick on to the surface, and we have our super-hydrophobic surface." Hess and his team can only produce small samples of water-repellent paper, but he's confident that the process can be scaled up and industrialized, bringing a 21st century twist to an ancient product.