Nanocomposite materials with functionalities such as self-cleaning, anti-icing, biofouling resistance, physical and chemical stability are highly desirable in many applications. However, it remains challenging to produce such multifunctional nanocomposite materials while maintaining scalable manufacturability. ZnO nanowire (NW) arrays, prepared using a sol-gel process and chemical bath deposition, possess a unique morphology, offering a multitude of useful properties. However, it is difficult to retain the desired alignment of NWs during the fabrication of nanocomposites. In this work, we fabricate ZnO NWs-based nanocomposites by taking advantage of capillary rise infiltration of polymer into the nanovoids between NWs. Our method enables generation of polymer-infiltrated ZnO NW nanocomposites while retaining the highly aligned morphology of the NWs in a scalable manner. Additionally, by controlling the orientation of NW and the infiltrating polymer (polydimethylsiloxane or silicone oil), the surface of the nanocomposite can cover a large range of wettability, ranging from highly hydrophilic to slippery to superhydrophobic properties. Moreover, our nanocomposites can be useful in various emerging applications, such as self-cleaning, anti-icing, high transparency, and anti-biofouling properties that are particularly useful for emerging technologies. Preliminary results in integrating ZnO NWs on commercial membranes will also be discussed.
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