Antifouling Stainless Steel Surface: Competition between Roughness and Surface Energy


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To increase the shelf-life qualities of dairy products, a heat treatment is usually done. However, heat treatments induce physico-chemical modifications of the products. Some of them lead to the expected product but an unwanted consequence of this process is the formation of a fouling deposit on the surfaces in contact with the processed fluid. To eliminate fouling, cleaning processes have to be done once a day. It increases the processing and maintenance costs. To control and to decrease the fouling are the main problems in food industries and an active research is carried out on efficient antifouling surface treatments. In the present study, a 316L 2B stainless steel was submitted to different surface treatments (Flame and plasma pre-treatments, Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapour Deposition, hydrophobic coatings, mechanical polishing ...) to try to establish correlations between different surface parameters (roughness, hydrophobicity, nanostructuration, surface energy, ...) onto the fouling in heat exchangers. All the treated plates were then submitted to a fouling test using an aqueous solution of β-lactoglobulin at 1% (p/p) with a final calcium concentration of 910 mg/L and compared to a bare steel plate. The results obtained imply different influences of each parameter depending on the surface roughness: the effect of a non organized micrometric roughness is preponderant compared to the surface energy: the fouling comes from a mechanical effect mainly due to rubbing. However, when the surface is nanostructured, fouling decreases. When the roughness reaches the nanometer scale (between 100 and 400 nm), it is the surface energy and the polar/apolar components which become preponderant compared to the roughness. Fouling is this time mainly due to the hydrophilicity of the surface and to the adsorption of the β-lactoglobulin on acido-basic sites. Finally, when the roughness reaches less than 50 nm, polar/apolar components show no effect anymore, the preponderant parameter is the hydrophobicity of the surface.



Materials Science Forum (Volumes 706-709)

Main Theme:

Edited by:

T. Chandra, M. Ionescu and D. Mantovani






M. Jimenez et al., "Antifouling Stainless Steel Surface: Competition between Roughness and Surface Energy", Materials Science Forum, Vols. 706-709, pp. 2523-2528, 2012

Online since:

January 2012




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