Super waterproof surfaces cause water to bounce like a ball
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Image: Brigham Young University

Scientists are studying the most extreme water proof surfaces in the world, with the aim of creating self-cleaning, ice-proof material that bounces water away.

To do this, they're testing the way water bounces and rolls off of different hydrophobic surfaces - and capturing it all on ultra-high-speed camera.

Professor Julie Crockett from Brigham Young University explains in a press release: "Our research is geared toward helping to create the ideal super-hydrophobic surface…By characterising the specific properties of these different surfaces, we can better pinpoint which types of surfaces are most advantageous for each application.”

The applications of the work range all the way from self-cleaning toilets and shoes, tougher submarines and frost-proof planes. But the researchers are especially excited about its potential savings for energy generation.

Right now, most energy is generated by burning coal or fossil fuels to create steam that rotates a turbine. The steam then needs to be condensed back into a liquid state for the cycle to continue. 

If power plant condensers could be built with these super waterproof surfaces, the process could be sped up - saving time and money.

“If you have these surfaces, the fluid isn’t attracted to the condenser wall, and as soon as the steam starts condensing to a liquid, it just rolls right off,” Crockett says in the release. “And so you can very, very quickly and efficiently condense a lot of gas.”

There are two types of super-hydrophobic surfaces her team is currently tested - those with micro posts, and surfaces with ribs and cavities on tenth the size of a human hair. They're made with patterns etched onto the surface, which is then covered with a thin water-resistant film.

Although the materials they're working with aren't groundbreaking, the team is hoping to find out why they're causing water to behave this way.