Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research want to make fingerprints on your computer screen a thing of the past with a new "superamphiphobic" coating that repels both oil and water. By holding a glass slide over a candle, the scientists were able to deposit spheres of black soot 30 to 40 nanometers in diameter on its surface, creating the precise kind of texture that would repel oil. While it's been known what kind of surface roughness would be necessary for oil-repellency, creating it had previously proven difficult. To prevent the soot from rubbing off, the glass slide was then coated with a layer of silica just 25 nanometers thick, and baked at 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit to render it transparent.
Oleophobic coatings, which are resistant to oil, have been utilized in smartphones and tablets for some time now, but the results are often less than impressive. The new process would be a marked improvement, and with the coating also compatible with aluminum, steel, and copper, it provides an opportunity for a variety of of products, from windows that clean themselves with rain water, to medical devices that don't get clogged, and even greaseless eyeglass lenses. Still, it needs refinement: currently the coating can simply be scratched off a surface, and the use of ovens and candles is far from an efficient production method. The researchers are hoping to create the coating with chemical solutions next.