Hydrophobic materials that are robust to harsh environments are needed in a broad range of applications1–3 . Although durable materials such as metals and ceramics, which are generally hydrophilic, can be rendered hydrophobic by polymeric modifiers4 , these deteriorate in harsh environments. Here we show that a class of ceramics comprising the entire lanthanide oxide series, ranging from ceria to lutecia, is intrinsically hydrophobic. We attribute their hydrophobicity to their unique electronic structure, which inhibits hydrogen bonding with interfacial water molecules. We also show with surface-energy measurements that polar interactions are minimized at these surfaces and with Fourier transform infrared/grazing-angle attenuated total reflection that interfacial water molecules are oriented in the hydrophobic hydration structure. Moreover, we demonstrate that these ceramic materials promote dropwise condensation, repel impinging water droplets, and sustain hydrophobicity even after exposure to harsh environments. Rare-earth oxide ceramics should find widespread applicability as robust hydrophobic surfaces.

Paper: Gisele Azimi, Rajeev Dhiman, Hyuk-Min Kwon, Adam T. Paxson & Kripa K. Varanasi. Nature Materials, 20 January 2013.

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