Superhydrophobic Coatings Applied to Rapidly Deployable Humanitarian Relief Tents

David testing superhydrophobic coatings




Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Project Summary

This summer, I worked with five other undergraduates to develop relief tents for humanitarian and environmental disasters. We investigated one of the major problems in current tent camps, water management, and were tasked with developing a prototype tent that utilized active coatings. As a team, we developed active super hydrophobic coatings to channel water so it could be collected and purified. The CURF - SURGG grant enabled us to study coating application, coating characterization, and tent design. We focused on analyzing the problem of rapidly deployable relief tents and the tent fabric in the interdisciplinary sense, from an engineering, architectural, chemical, and sociological perspective.

We started by thinking about why people turn to tents and tent relief camps. The UN and Sphere Handbook publishes standards for relief tents, which we used as a basis for our design. We wanted a tent to be livable, dependable, and comfortable. The prototype tent design folds and unfolds so it could be rapidly deployable.

In parallel to our developments on tent design, we were investigating hydrophobic coatings and how we could apply them to fabric. Considering the surface chemistry and roughness, we assessed the effectiveness of the hydrophobic coatings. From there, we optimized the coating to allow droplets to be super-hydrophobic, or roll down the tent with ease without wetting the surface. 

As an architecture and biology student, I am fascinated by co-relating disciplines and applying a real-world design problem. Developing a prototype relief tent is a practical exemplar of some of the many design explorations from my architecture classes. At the same time, I utilized some of the many tools of scientific analysis from my biology courses to effectively collaborate with my teammates and create a prototype for a relief tent with a hydrophobic surface.