Water-repellant chemical could be a new driving force to move water

We spend a lot of time discussing how digital technologies are influencing process automation, but some researchers are looking to alternative technologies for innovation and solutions to common challenges.

Among them, researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a technique for moving water through a small channel without using a driving force, which they suggest could be used in applications that use pipes to carry liquids, Bob Yirka reports on Phys.org.

The approach involves coating a channel, which the team made using glass coverslips a half-centimeter wide and clamped together, with a material that is known to attract oil and repel water. When 10 to 25 microliters of oil or water were added to the channel and an end was closed, the researchers found that both liquids moved to the open end without the use of additional forces, Yirka reports.

Additionally, the researchers found that the flexible nature of the coverslips was important, as the flex produced a pressure gradient that pulled the water through the channel. When water moved through the channel, the walls expanded outward as a result of the repelling nature of the water and the chemical. The inverse was true as oil moved through the channel, Yirka reports. As a result, the researchers describe the motion of liquid through their coated channel as “bendotaxis," Yirka adds.

The research was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.