Super-Hydrophobic Material – the latest in waterproof technology

January 7th, 2014

Over the course of December and early January, England endured heavy rain falls and drenching floods in parks and fields. Even though we still struggle in times of floods, we may be able to stay more protected and drier when popping out to the store.

In a recent discovery, US scientists have discovered ‘the most waterproof material ever’ Through the discovery of Nasturtium leaves and Butterfly wings. Why? because they contain specific ridges that divert the droplets away when hitting the material.

According to an article from the BBC, a team of scientists From MIT, Boston quotes:

“Adding tiny ridges to a silicon surface made water bounce off it 40% faster than the previous “limit”.

Waterproof materials originate from copying the surface of the lotus leaf, which was thought to be the best barrier against water.

The key is – how fast a droplet of water bounces off an anorak. A video from the BBC website shows this and shows that by adding macroscopic textures to a material will allow a droplet of water to bounce off faster, splitting the droplet into pieces. When a droplet fell onto the macroscopic texture anorak it detached itself from the impact at 7.8 milliseconds. When the droplet fell onto the lotus leaf texture, the time it took for the droplet to ‘bounce’ off the material was 18.1 milliseconds.

Why does this tiny difference matter? The longer the droplet stays on a material, the more chance it has to corrode things such as power lines, paints, roofs inside aircraft engines and more.

The macroscopic texture not only allows rain to bounce off faster but also splits it into pieces into different directions, thanks to the intricate Butterfly ridges found on the wings and Nasturtium leaves.

The problem is durability said Prof Kripa Varanasi, the lead scientist who is leading the team in super-hydrophobic surfaces.
Super-hydrophobic materials are ‘fragile polymers’ and do not stand against abrasion or high temperatures. Fortunately this can be solved by combining these textures with metals and ceramics.

The only aspect that makes this new material so effective is the microscopic ridges implanted onto the surface. This allows is beneficial for industries across the globe as the ridges can be produced by ordinary milling tools. Thus, everything you can think of can be created to be much more waterproofed.

We thought we found and conquered the most super-hydrophobic material with lotus leaves but only recently we’ve found out that butterfly wings and Nasturtium leaves are the next new advance in water protection. Who’s to say we have found ‘the best’ waterproof material? There may be dozen more species that could hold something better.