Friday, March 5, 2010
Engineering researchers Shu-Hau Hsu and Wolfgang M. Sigmund have created what they say is a “nearly perfect hydrophobic interface” by borrowing from another of nature’s wonders - spiders. By reproducing, on small bits of plastic, the shape and patterns of the minute hairs that grow on the bodies of spiders the researchers have created what may be among, if not the, most water-phobic surface yet.
The potential applications for the ultra-water-repellent surface developed at the University of Florida , Go Gaters, are many. When water scampers off the surface it picks up and carries dirt with it, in effect making the surface self-cleaning.
Unlike many water-repelling surfaces, this one relies entirely on the microscopic shape and patterns of the material — rather than its composition.
In other words, physics, not chemistry, is what makes it water repellent. Theoretically, that means the technique could transform even the most water-sopping materials – say, sponges – into water-shedding ones. It also means that Sigmund’s surfaces need never slough off dangerous chemicals. Provided the surface material itself is made safe, making it water repellent introduces no new risks.
The surface works equally well with hot or cold water and Sigmund says a variation of the surface also repels oil, a first for the industry.
While inexpensive, it is hard to produce successful surfaces with great reliability, and different techniques need to be developed to make the surfaces in commercially available quantities and size, Sigmund said. Also, he said, more research is needed to make the surfaces hardy and resistant to damage.
WTF !? Spiders are just insect! What are we, the mightiest species on the planet. going to learn from a bug?
A paper about the surface appears in the journal Langmuir.