It’s What’s on the Surface That Counts

Scientists employ laser-beams to get water bouncing

Taking inspiration from good ol’ biological structures like the hydrophobic (water-resistant) leaves of lotus plants, scientists at the University of Rochester have developed a method to make metal so hydrophobic, water actually bounces off of it.

To achieve these rather epic results, the team changed the surface structure of the metal by etching nano-scale patterns using femtosecond-long laser pulses. How long is a femtosecond, you ask? Exactly one-quadrillionth of a second, or the length of time it takes light to travel the approximate diameter of a virus (.3 micrometers).

After undergoing the etching process, the metal’s surface takes on new properties without requiring the application of a coating that could potentially wear off with age. It absorbs more light resulting in a visibly blackened, matte appearance and it repels water with such fervor, you’d think the water just found out it played World of Warcraft.

So will we all be walking, nay, jumping on water soon? Not so much… But this tech does have a wide range of potential applications: improving light collection rates of solar cells, making airplane wings immune to icing issues, even producing sleds that would put Clark Griswold’s to shame.  

Go deep into the science of “Multifunctional surfaces produced by femtosecond laser pulses” by reading the full report published by the Journal of Applied Physics.

Can you think of a better use for this tech? Let us know in the comments below!


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Beautiful art through Biology for the Popular Culture.