Layer-by-Layer Assembly of Fluorine-Free Polyelectrolyte–Surfactant Complexes for the Fabrication of Self-Healing Superhydrophobic Films

Abstract

Fluorine-free self-healing superhydrophobic films are of significance for practical applications because of their extended service life and cost-effective and eco-friendly preparation process. In this study, we report the fabrication of fluorine-free self-healing superhydrophobic films by layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly of poly­(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate) (PSS)–1-octadecylamine (ODA) complexes (PSS–ODA) and poly­(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH)–sodium dodecyl sulfonate (SDS) (PAH–SDS) complexes. The wettability of the LbL-assembled PSS–ODA/PAH–SDS films depends on the film structure and can be tailored by changing the NaCl concentration in aqueous dispersions of PSS–ODA complexes and the number of film deposition cycles. The freshly prepared PSS–ODA/PAH–SDS film with micro- and nanoscaled hierarchical structures is hydrophilic and gradually changes to superhydrophobic in air because the polyelectrolyte-complexed ODA and SDS surfactants tend to migrate to the film surface to cover the film with hydrophobic alkyl chains to lower its surface energy. The large amount of ODA and SDS surfactants loaded in the superhydrophobic PSS–ODA/PAH–SDS films and the autonomic migration of these surfactants to the film surface endow the resultant superhydrophobic films with an excellent self-healing ability to restore the damaged superhydrophobicity. The self-healing superhydrophobic PSS–ODA/PAH–SDS films are mechanically robust and can be deposited on various flat and nonflat substrates. The LbL assembly of oppositely charged polyelectrolyte–surfactant complexes provides a new way for the fabrication of fluorine-free self-healing superhydrophobic films with satisfactory mechanical stability, enhanced reliability, and extended service life

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