Saturday, April 13, 2024

Superhydrophobic – Science or magic?

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The first thing that you would absolutely do when rain catches you unaware is do everything to protect you electronic devices. You would think for all the advances we have made with electronics we would have found a way to protect them completely from accidental immersion. 

The idea would be to put on some invisible coating that would simply make the water just roll off the surface.

Superhydrophobic

As it happens we now have the technology to do these. And better yet they are also available to the general public. These coatings are termed to be superhydrophobic which means that the coated surfaces are actively trying to repel water. These coatings work on the nano scale and change the way your surfaces behave to water.

Superhydro-what’s it?

Now if you are interested in the science part then this is how it works. These highly water resistant coatings change the way surfaces bond with water molecules. A superhydrophobic surface has its electrons evenly distributed, which means the surface has no polarity which allows the polar molecules of water to stick. In such a case the water takes it most natural form, which is a round droplet which rolls off the surface till it has something to bind to. What is great is that it picks up any particles like dust or pollen off the surface, keeping it clean and speckles.  This actually happens on many organic bodies and plants like butterflies and lotus leaves, which provided inspiration for development in the first place

The only catch is that currently all these coatings leave a hazy layer over your surfaces, which is often not an issue when it comes to cleaning intensive surfaces such as window glasses, television screens, or   some prescription glasses.

Cool! Can I Get some?

You can actually. There are sprays and coating solutions available from various companies like Aculon, Liquipel or Ross technologies. These feature really simple applications and your surfaces are hydrophobic before you know it. In fact Aculon has a special applicator pen, much like a highlighter you would use to mark things in your book. Simply use it to mark down areas that you don’t want water to gather. With such a free form application you can go crazy and do some really artsy stuff. Like in the commercial for Ultra Ever Dry where an entire sleet of colored green water seems to be contained in an invisible container. Originally it is a rectangular wooden board with a superhydrophobic coating on its borders with the central portion. The result looks like magic.

Liquipel sells devices prefabricated right inside the boxes without making claims for warranties void, which mean you can have your devices waterproofed right out of the box. Of course the cost of the device does go up but it is a worthy investment if you are purchasing high-end phones and tablets. A $30 extra for a device like the Samsung Galaxy S3 is hardly a bad investment if it prolongs the longevity of the device.

Development is going on for Superhydrophobic clothing and a recent development by MIT will allow water to roll off superhydrophobic surface much faster. There will come a day when the British weather might not feel as wet as it is.

Summary:

Would it not be wonderful if you could just never get wet in the rain wearing your regular clothes? Turns out there are every possibility that this could happen for real with superhydrophobic nano coatings that actively repel water from surfaces.

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