Smart interfaces for wetting and phase change control

Smart interfaces with tailored wetting properties to control liquid behavior at interfaces, e.g. on solid surfaces, have tremendous potential in a variety of engineering and energy-related applications. Non-wetting surfaces superhydrophobic surfaces are developed at SEFI Lab for their extreme potential against ice nucleation and accretion on solid substrates, a severe issue in aeronautics, for structures in cold climates, and for low-temperature heat exchangers, and for efficient condensation processes. To control phase change processes, materials and surfaces can be rationally designed and fabricated, with complex patterning down to the micro- and nanoscale

The group has expertise the following applications:

Icephobic materials

Surface icing can have many negative consequences in a broad range of fields. To avoid sever issues related to ice formation, superhydrophobic surfaces are known to be extremely efficient in terms of reducing ice nucleation and accretion on solid substrates. At SEFI Lab, we rationally design and fabricate advanced materials and surfaces, with hierarchical structuring down to the micro- and nanoscale, providing novel strategies to control phase change processes and limiting negative effects of uncontrolled icing or frosting, and developing new technological approaches for analyzing icing phenomena.

Currently, our group is involved in the SURFICE project funded by the European Union under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 956703:

The project aims to the formulation of a rational framework for the design and fabrication of a category of discontinuity-enhanced icephobic surfaces that will be tested for industrially relevant applications.

Under this project, SEFI Lab is testing several kinds of materials, which are useful to understand the interactions of matter with water in the liquid and solid state.

Water harvesting

Among all water resources, fog harvesting from the atmosphere is highly recommended, because it is a passive method with considerably lower pollution and does not require high technology and costly operation and maintenance.

At SEFI Lab, we are working on a new project on atmospheric water harvesting, named WaterHaB, spanning from studying the fundamental interaction of water with fibers and meshes, to engineering a windcatcher tower, modeled after a Badgir, an ancient Iranian architecture on building rooftops for enhancing fog collection.

WaterHaB has the ambition to develop a novel approach and use up-to-date surface technologies to tackle an old need of the European and world water resources: this means transferring the scientific knowledge to the real applications in reducing wetting- related issue, i.e. fresh water shortage. In this project, we will advance our fundamental understanding of water wetting behavior on fibers and meshes and design novel biomimetic micro- and nano-structures, for engineering systems capable of harvesting atmospheric water based on Badgir, the Iranian traditional windcatcher architecture.

"La Repubblica" newspaper and UNIMIB website shared an interview about this project on November 2021