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Science Technology

Ion-Mask Coating Could Make Waterproofing Electronics Easy 99

Engadget is reporting that a new chemical coating, originally designed to repel toxic vapors and liquids from soldiers' uniforms, may be the solution to small waterproof electronics. "The Ion-Mask is a special invisible coating that is chemically bonded to the device and repels water. It should allow waterproofing to make it into devices that are too small for the seals that are usually used to do the trick. Devices can have joins and gaps coated for a general level of water repellence, or have individual components treated for even more protection."
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Ion-Mask Coating Could Make Waterproofing Electronics Easy

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  • Lame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This would take all the fun out of the old hairdryer-in-the-bathtub prank.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pwnies ( 1034518 ) *
      Not necessarily. Hairdryers generate heat by sending an electrical current through a filament to heat it up, but that filament directly accessible through the wide nozzle of the hair dryer. This ion-seal doesn't prevent electrical current from touching water, it merely prevents water from seeping through small holes or cracks in a device. With the wide nozzle of the hairdryer, water could still easily flow directly into the filament - which means you can still check to see if your buddies reaction speed is
      • No, this technology is supposed to allow coating (functionalization in surface science) of surfaces with a layer of polymer by application of a plasma of the polymer to the surface... even elements could be coated (and thus prevented from exchanging ions and electrons with water, although i'm sure most polymers would be melted by the high temperature of the elements...).
    • but it would make this [] a reality
  • quite useful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:08PM (#21870356) Homepage Journal
    Considering that I just sent my iPod through a ride in the washing machine, this could be quite useful. Not only for waterproofing, but also for cleaning electronics. Sure you can send your keyboard through the dishwasher, but you still have to let it dry for quite a while. It'd be a nice way to clean more intricate electronics as well.
    • by swb ( 14022 )
      I need to do that soon. My IBM model M looks pretty gross at this point.

      What I really should be doing is stocking up on PS/2->USB connectors so I'm able to use it with the future USB-3 only motherboards.
      • by Big Jason ( 1556 )
        Be careful, very few PS/2->USB converters will work with a Model M. sells one [] that works, however.
        • I had that problem a while back (I have an expensive keyboard that I didn't want to repurchase just to get a USB version). I bought a bunch of different PS/2->USB and ended up buying a $70 converter that actually worked.

          Any idea why that is the case? Furthermore, what are those cheap converters for if they don't work for keyboards? Do they work for mice?
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by oggiejnr ( 999258 )
            As far as I am aware the cheap ones simply act as connection changers and allow for keyboard manufacturers to create PS2/USB keyboards with only one connection on the end. The keyboard has to decide to what port it is connected and uses the appropriate protocol. The expensive ones actually change the protocol between USB and PS2 so the device doesn't have to be USB aware.
          • If memory serves, it is due to the voltages required by the Model M - and the voltages that are put out on certain newer motherboards.

            I am too lazy to check to see if my memory is correct - but I think the site listed above says why...

            The link was []

            As for me, I am keeping (and using) all of my Model M's till someone pries them from my cold dead fingers - and as they make nice bludgeoning weapons (and then can be cl

            • I recently got a Unicomp model M. Same as the IBM ones, since IBM sold them the designs/manufacturing rights. Not only can the keyboard be put through the dishwasher, severe damage can be fixed by replacing the individual keyswitches, something that is impossible in a membrane keyboard. I also suspect there is enough room in it for a small compressed air dart gun, thus providing the possibility of piercing chemical weaponized keyboards, instead of simple 4-5 pound bludgeoning weapon keyboards. This could b
          • There are different types of converter

            First there are simple wiring adaptors, theese are usally recognisable by being very small and only having a single PS2 port. Theese only work if the device supports both PS2 and USB but has the wrong plug for what you want.

            Then there are converters that do implement PS2 to USB conversion but play fast and loose with the specs of the PS2 interface in one way or another presumablly to save cost (there are lots of ways in which this can be wrong e.g. wrong supply voltage
    • I'm sure some would pay a couple hundred extra for an iPod that would survive a six foot drop and a six foot dunk. I wish there were a cell phone that would (damn nokia).

      Since you'll probably not get it, stick a bluetooth transmitter on the ipod and stick it in a sealed RF transparent but near invulnerable box. ;) It'll cost about the same.

      I'm not sure if the following offers any remote capability, didn't look to close and I'm not endorsing them, just pointing at the first I found []
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by darthflo ( 1095225 )
        The Nokia 6250, while being quite a brick, tends to easily survive six foot drops onto concrete. Mine actually did survive some thirty-or-so foot drops onto grass and stone ground. Even being throwing it at people wouldn't hurt it. What finally killed it was playing half an hour of water cell (didn't have a ball handy) with it's rear cover not properly fixed.
        • by mrmeval ( 662166 )
          I'll look at that Nokia. I have a 6030 and it works well but it is not robust. It has handled a couple of drops but dissembles itself. I really want an open source phone I can use with my service but I doubt they will allow it.

          • > It has handled a couple of drops but dissembles itself.

            Er, I had always had the impression that these things are not unconnected. I'd assumed that Nokia designed the phone so that the less valuable and less fragile parts (the covers, and perhaps the battery) absorb more of the energy of the collision, partially by flying off.
      • you need to find a better phone then. My motorola L2, has survived in a glass of water, has fall down two flights of stairs, and a 11 foot drop onto a concrete floor(yes i know the height, it is clearly labeled loading zone). The water one took a week for it to work right and to finish drying out.

        after all that it has one tiny scratch on the back of the battery case.

        • by mrmeval ( 662166 )
          *sobs* I had one. An Erickson. Old analog phone that got service in places goats wouldn't go.
          With the extra large battery it was quite a brick. It finally just wore out and the local cell phone companies were not reactivating analog phones so I didn't get one.
          I dropped that countless times with no problems.

        • I had a Nokia 6110 (I think it was), and it survived everything... drops, snow, water... the works

          The one thing it didn't survive however was the snowblower :-( It had falled out of my pocket in the morning, and I hadn't noticed, and my granfather-in-law snow blowed it
      • our phones drop us.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimmyswimmy ( 749153 )
      I don't know why this is a big deal for the Slashdot crowd. Might be nice for keeping the water out of my sneaks, but for electronics? Conformal coatings (like Humiseal) have been around forever... they're just expensive and make rework miserable.

      Don't think this would work all that well on entire systems. Remember, most battery-module interfaces are connectorized. If you overcoat the connector, you will reduce surface contact between the connector sides, which increases electrical resistance. In other
    • I can not keep a wristwatch water proof after replacing the batteries so I usually buy another watch when the battery dies. It might help if I bought a little more expensive watch but it is too tempting when a watch is around $10. This coating would probably be too expensive for the cheap watches.
    • I work in the electronics manufacturing field, and I feel it necessary to quell some rumors here... First off, while water and electricity don't mix, water and ELECTRONICS do. Every single board my company makes is washed after the soldering process with... WATER! With RARE exceptions, every electronic device you have was washed in water. The problem comes when you have corrosive / conductive liquids (salt water, or tap water with impurities in it), or the power is still on.
      In any event, the idea of water
    • High pressure washing delicate electronics devices isn't my idea of useful.

      Not to mention, we're talking about a thin film substance here acting as the sealer.
      I'm betting, that frequent exposure to high pressure washing is likely to deteriorate any waterproofing. These things will probably need to come with labels stating "hand wash only"
      "No abrasive" washing.

      You could probably do this yourself by getting some good epoxy,
      disassemble your device and apply a thin layer of epoxy at all possible water entry poi
  • by illegibledotorg ( 1123239 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:10PM (#21870366)
    I guess this could be nice in the "small device" application that they mention, but other bigger devices come to mind:

    - Ever ruin a laptop by spilling soda on it? It might still be sticky, but you wouldn't fry the motherboard.
    - Ever tried waterproofing an outdoor AP or camera? You have to be very aggressive -- this could make things easier.

    It would be great if this stuff came to market like a Rustoleum-type spray.
    • This would be a lifesaver on cell phones that get hit with a drop of water and fry.
    • by blankinthefill ( 665181 ) <> on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:34PM (#21870540) Journal
      I thought of this too, but it brings up some important things to consider first: 1. Will the treatment inhibit heat transfer? Does it even stand up under heat? The article was pretty vague on that point, but if the answer to the first one is yes, or the second one is no, then that would limit its functionality greatly when expanding it to uses outside those mentioned in the article, namely phones. 2. Cost. How much does it cost to do this? and, more importantly, would there be a way to do it yourself, or to bring something in somewhere and get it done for you? If the is prohibitive, then it also lowers the usefulness, but if its cheap, easy to use, and you don't have to have a contract with them to get it done... this could end up being a pretty nice addition to ANY portable electronics.
      • The website was talking about a couple bucks range, but I can't find it again. The technology is an ion application [] so the biggest expense is going to be evacuating the atmosphere from the treatment chamber, after that would be paatent licensing. The actual coating is then ion deposited on the desired article and the result is only a few molecules thick. I can't see any molecules thick layer having a measurable effect on thermal conductivity, nor having any effect on electrical conductivity that would be s
        • I can't see any molecules thick layer having a measurable effect on thermal conductivity

          That's not the only issue—it's also important to know at what temperature and rate of thermal transfer the coating itself will be damaged.

          • I recall seeing something like this on TechTV so it was a few years ago, but if its the same, they are using a plasma generated from fluorine gas and usually the base molecule will disintegrate before the fluorine bond breaks.
    • your post reminds me of the oxyclean commercial guy. I think he is kind of annoying. But yeah, I agree with you about the solution for cleaning and protecting circuits.
    • by slyn ( 1111419 )

      - Ever ruin a laptop by spilling soda on it? It might still be sticky, but you wouldn't fry the motherboard.

      Pop? No. Beer? Yes.

      Thank god it was still under the warranty, or I would've had the awkward task of presenting my drunkass cousin's with the bill.
    • by celle ( 906675 )
      No, but my cat pissed in one. I disassembled, cleaned, and I'm typing this to you now on it now. And no smell.
    • Concerning an device that you're supposed to handle in your hands - there's still the aspect of mechanical durability. TFA does not mention how thick or mechanically durable this layer should be. What if it wears off, if you have a camera and use it frequently? I still remember how my SLR looked after twenty years of usage. But I am afraid that it won't matter anyway as it will most likely be applied to some consumer crap. :/
  • Vaporware (Score:2, Funny)

    by inflamed ( 1156277 )
    Having read all the available literature on this process, I feel it's fair to call it vaporware.
  • How is this is superior to the traditional epoxy dip?

    • Epoxy can over-insulate electronics in devices that are becoming increasingly compact and need every square millimeter it can get to shed that excess heat.
      • Certainly. But my question is whether there is information indicating that this ion mask outperforms epoxy or other conformal coatings in this respect?
    • I suspect it's related to the coating's density or thickness. Epoxy would be far too dense to use on fabric, which is (as mentioned previously) why it also retains heat more in electronic applications. It's all supposition though till more info is provided.
  • by ip_freely_2000 ( 577249 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:20PM (#21870424)
    ...when I dropped my phone into the kitchen sink.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:20PM (#21870426)
    Although this coating may make something waterproof, I'd doubt that it makes the device surfactant-resistant. Soapy water (in the shower, tub, sink, or washing machine) does not have the high surface tension or tendency to be repelled by hydrophobic substances that I'd bet this coating depends on.

    Of course, I could be wrong and would enjoy an informative post that proves that this coating can survive suds.
  • So you're telling me that my cell phone's moisture "pink-dot" sensor won't be able to brick my phone at random anymore? How else are the mobile companies gonna keep ripping me off? Somebody please think of the phone companies!
  • The lifeguards now carry tasers.
  • by writerjosh ( 862522 ) * on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:25PM (#21870466) Homepage
    This article elaborates on how it would work with shoes/clothing:

    "Rather than absorbing water and dirt, moisture will instead bead off the surface of the specially-designed shoes."

    And then another advantage (for insurance companies at least) is the insurance angle:

    "For electronic devices, protection from water is also important. Water damage is one of the top reasons for insurance claims on mobiles, with more than 1.2 million being dropped in lavatories, drinks or put through washing machines last year." []

    Perhaps this could also be an eventual replacement to protect servers and other vital machinery without the cost and danger of Halon and similar gases.
    • "...Rather than absorbing water and dirt, moisture will instead bead off the surface of the specially-designed shoes."

      ...Right after you pull your 3" high shoe out of the 6-inch deep slush puddle that didn't look that deep until you stepped in it. I've watched that happen so often it's become a spectator sport for me every time a good-sized snowstorm hits NYC :)


  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:42PM (#21870566)
    Is this anything like that "Girl Repellent" stuff that Trekkies spray on themselves before going out to singles bars?
  • Ever since I saw those mac desktops with the translucent neon backs (G3 era?) I've thought that they would make great fish tanks... Now maybe they will!
  • What if?? (Score:4, Funny)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @06:55PM (#21870634)
    What if you coated your face with it?

    Then you'd be the man in the Ion mask!

    Thank you! And have a Happy New Year!

    • I would have given you a +1 for that if I had the points.
    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      What if you coated your face with it?

      Then you'd be the man in the Ion mask!

      I was thinking more about waterproofing my network equipment - The LAN in the ion mask.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday December 31, 2007 @07:07PM (#21870706) Homepage

    It should allow waterproofing to make it into devices that are too small for the seals that are usually used to do the trick.
    Have they tried baby seals?
  • The Man in the Ion Mask
  • Not waterproof... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blue l0g1c ( 1007517 )
    I'll bet my eye teeth that it will be rebranded as water resistant before it hits the market, because anything that is being touted as waterproof will be instantly chucked into a sinkful of water as soon as it is out of the packaging, and the company won't want to take responsibility for the ones that fail. I miss the days of "Waterproof."
  • There are conformal coatings [] for waterproofing. They're routinely used in automotive and military applications. The main limits on conformal coating come from components that interact with the outside world - connectors, microphones, speakers, displays, and switches. All those parts are available in waterproof forms.

    The ruggedized forms of those components tend to be a bit larger. But not by much any more. Check out the Motorola i580 [] ruggedized cell phone. Note how the speaker and microphone take up

  • Could be used to waterproof people. The man in the Ion-mask would make a good sci-fi series.
  • by Penguin Follower ( 576525 ) <> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @07:02AM (#21873294) Journal
    I just want to know when I can use this to water proof my PC for water cooling! :D

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.