You probably haven’t seen something this water-resistant before. A team of scientists at the University of Rochester have created a metal so water-resistant, it bounces off of it.
Watch water bounce off the metal in the video below.
I think I just found my new iPhone case.
How did scientists manage this? The simple answer is lasers. University of Rochester’s Chunlei Guo and his colleague at the University’s Institute of Optics, Anatoliy Vorobyev published a paper yesterday laying out how they created this water-resistant metal.
In the paper, they describe a precise laser-patterning technique. This technique creates a complex pattern of micro and nanoscale structures that gives the metal its water-resistant properties.
A huge advantage of using lasers is the properties won’t rub off. Imagine your favorite frying pan. The water resistant properties wear off over time. But, since “the structures created by our laser on the metals are intrinsically part of the material surface,” according to Guo – it will never wear off.
Let’s go back to the frying pan example for just a second. Non-stick frying pans use Teflon as their hydrophobic (repels water) material. In order for water to roll-off your pan, you need to tilt the pan to a 70 degree angle. With the metal created by Guo and his colleagues? Water rolls off by tilting the metal less than 5 degrees.
Here’s another video of Guo and Vorobyev explaining how they created the super-hydrophobic metal surface.
A cool secondary property of the hydrophobic metal is that the water collects dust particles as it bounces off the metal. Guo and his team poured some dust from a vacuum cleaner onto the treated metal. Just 12 drops of water completely cleaned the surface, and left it dry.
Guo does acknowledge there are hurdles for real-word applications. The biggest? The amount of time it takes to pattern a piece of metal with these properties. Right now it takes an hour just to do a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of metal. Still, it’s very impressive work and has caught the eye of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – who supported the work along with the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Guo envisions uses for hydrophobic materials in developing countries. “In these regions, collecting rain water is vital and using super-hydrophobic materials could increase the efficiency without the need to use large funnels with high-pitched angles to prevent water from sticking to the surface,” says Guo. “A second application could be creating latrines that are cleaner and healthier to use.”