The Anti-Biofouling Properties of Superhydrophobic Surfaces are Short-Lived

Superhydrophobic surfaces are present in nature on the leaves of many plant species. Water rolls on these surfaces, and the rolling motion picks up particles including bacteria and viruses. Man-made superhydrophobic surfaces have been made in an effort to reduce biofouling. We show here that the anti-biofouling property of a superhydrophobic surface is due to an entrapped air-bubble layer that reduces contact between the bacteria and the surface. Further, we showed that prolonged immersion of superhydrophobic surfaces in water led to loss of the bubble-layer and subsequent bacterial adhesion that unexpectedly exceeded that of the control materials. This behavior was not restricted to one particular type of material but was evident on different types of superhydrophobic surfaces. This work is important in that it suggests that superhydrophobic surfaces may actually encourage bacterial adhesion during longer term exposure.