At Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences the topic of laser ablation has been researched for many years. Since 2014 within the „Josef-Ressel-Center“. In this center researchers work on the production of micro-structures by means of ultrashort pulsed lasers. These lasers do not send the laser light continuously, but in the form of ultra-short and powerful flashes. This enables structures to be transferred even to very hard materials.
One research focus at the „Josef-Ressel-Center“ is the production of functional surfaces. This means that a surface is changed in such a way that for example water drips off at certain positions. It becomes superhydrophobic – similar to a lotus flower. The laser can also achieve the opposite: water is absorbed from the surface like a sponge – it becomes superhydrophilic.
The researchers at Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences have developed a new hybrid process between laser structuring and coating. This enables the random combination of properties. Thus it is possible that water flows on an even surface like through a channel. This new production method called „clear surface“ has already been applied for patent with the research partner „Spectra-Physics“.
„Clear surface“ offers numerous new opportunities for application. Among others also in the field of bionics – the transmission of phenomena from nature to technology. An interesting example for this is the stenocara gracilipes. This beetle´s home is the desert. In order to collect vital water from wafts of mist it has developed a special trick: with the particular form and wetting contrast of the wings, drops are collected on the back, which then flow to the head.
Within the framework of a master thesis it has been possible to model the surface of this mist drinking desert beetle with the help of „clear surface“. Like the bettle the bionic glass surface collects water from the air with great efficiency. Researchers at Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences are exploring further innovative opportunities to use „clear surface“ in the future.