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Advanced Materials series: Will self-cleaning materials transform rail maintenance?

Self-cleaning materials are materials that can prevent water, oily substances, debris or bacteria from contaminating their surfaces without human intervention. Most self-cleaning materials exhibit one or more of the following self-cleaning mechanisms; Superhydrophobic, Superhydrophilic, and Photocatalytic. 

Superhydrophobic properties self-cleans through the repulsion of water particles from the surface. Materials with superhydrophilic properties use water to “sheet” between the dirt/debris and the material itself, which then removes the debris along with the water. Photocatalytic self-cleaning methods work by chemically breaking down fouling matter through emitting free radicals (an atom with an unpaired electron) which are created when the material is exposed to UV waves in light.

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