The Lotus Effect - Exploring The Science Of The Shine
Florida Sport Fishing|September/October 2019
THERE HAVE BEEN COUNTLESS TECHNOLOGIES AND INNOVATIONS inspired by the animal kingdom, with the science of emulating nature known as biomimetics. Evolution has perfected natural designs and environmental approaches over hundreds of millions of years, providing chemists, biologists and engineers with a perfect platform to advance modern materials and manufacturing processes. Learning the way of the lotus leaf has revealed remarkable self-cleaning properties resulting from the unique flora’s ultrahydrophobic surface architecture producing water droplets in nearly perfect spherical shape.
Seth Funt
Taking care of your vessel, regardless of its overall length or price tag, is essential in maintaining value and aesthetic attributes. The more meticulous maintenance and cleaning practices you implement, the longer your vessel will shine with its original luster and appeal. Traditional marine detailing practices comprise a blend of compounding material for cleaning oxidized surfaces, and wax products for a polished presentation of paint or Gelcoat. But neither offer substantial long-term preservation attributes. Even when applied under a stringent maintenance regimen, waxed surfaces are still under constant attack from salt-water and UV exposure. Delicate boat soaps and deck brushes will also quickly erode that expensive detail. No matter how diligent your crew might be with cleanups at sea and dockside upkeep, wax does not weather nearly as well as some of the advanced materials that have recently come to market.

As the vessels we rely upon to reach the bite have evolved significantly, so have the materials we use to protect them. While nanoceramics were first discovered in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2007 when ceramic nanocoatings for the automotive industry were first developed and distributed. Based on the lotus plant’s wide leaf covered with wax crystals approximately one nanometer in diameter, ceramic coatings imitate nature’s topography of leaf surfaces to achieve extremely high levels of water repellency. Because of the non-wettable surface properties, water molecules cluster together to form droplets that attract dirt as they shed off the hydrophobic surface. Despite thriving in muddy waters, the lotus plant’s leaves always appear clean.

The lotus effect has since been replicated in the automotive and marine detailing industries by applying nano-ceramic material principles with the introduction of silicon and carbon. Ceramic coating incorporates molecular technology that utilizes various particulates to create a water-resistant and invisible layer of protection. When applied correctly, these liquid coatings provide far superior protection compared to simple wax products. Durability of surface coatings is for the first time measured in years, not months.

Most of the ceramic coatings available today are developed with various formulations or silica and have been designed for molecular self-assembly. Because surfaces are protected with a bonded glass substance there will be no more need for waxing periodically. Trips to the boatyard for polishing hull sides will be something you may not do for years. Dirt and black streaks wipe off like a dry erase board. Chemicals will no longer be required to remove stains and simple rinsing and drying will most often take care of all salt and grime. Fish blood can literally sit all day baking in the sun and will still release with just water. With a ceramic coating applied you can be certain to spend two-thirds less time cleaning. Not that you can stop caring for your boat, but your maintenance schedule will be drastically lessened.

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