Hydrophilic and Antimicrobial Zeolite Coatings for Gravity-Independent Water Separation


  • We thank the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) of US Department of Defence and the Technology for Sustainable Environment (TSE) program of US EPA for providing financial support.


Condensing heat exchangers onboard manned spacecraft require hydrophilic fin surfaces to facilitate wetting and wicking of condensate to achieve gravity-independent water separation in the zero- or micro-gravity environment of space. In order to prevent the proliferation of microbes, the coating must also be biocidal. Here we show for the first time that zeolite A and ZSM-5 coatings deposited via in-situ crystallization on stainless steel and aluminum alloys have excellent hydrophilicity, biocidal properties, and adhesion. Water contact angles below 5° were obtained on most substrates tested. When silver-ion exchange is carried out on the zeolite A coating, it becomes highly antibacterial. This biocidal capability of zeolite A is regenerative by repeated ion exchange. All coatings exhibit the highest rating of 5B as determined by adhesion test ASTM D-3359-02 (American Society for Testing and Materials). These properties, in addition to zeolite coating's low-temperature crystallization process and demonstrated corrosion resistance, make zeolite coatings advantageous over the current sol–gel coatings and well suited for use in condensing heat exchangers onboard manned spacecraft.