Control of Surface Wettability of Aluminum Mesh with Hierarchical Surface Morphology by Monolayer Coating: From Superoleophobic to Superhydrophilic

This paper reports the formation of hierarchically structured aluminum mesh by a combination of simple chemical etching and anodizing. The former introduced micrometer-sized etch pits, and the latter produced nanopores of the order of 10 nm on the mesh with 150 μm mesh openings. Coating the mesh with a monolayer of fluoroalkyl phosphate made the surface superoleophobic to practically any liquid, including hexane with a surface tension as low as 18.4 mN m–1. The hierarchical triple ∼100 μm/∼1 μm/∼10 nm pore surface morphology improved the superoleophobicity compared to the dual ∼100 μm/∼10 nm and ∼1 μm/∼10 nm pore structures. When the aluminum mesh was coated with a fluorine-free alkylphosphate monolayer, the surface was superhydrophobic, but superoleophilic. The noncoated aluminum mesh was superhydrophilic and superoleophilic with a liquid contact angle close to 0°. Using the aluminum mesh with an alkylphosphate coating, a water/oil mixture was successfully separated by allowing only the oil to pass through the mesh. In addition, the mixture was separated using noncoated mesh wetted with water, since oil was not able to pass through the mesh in this case.