Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
Biotech Science

New "Hairy" Material Is Almost Perfectly Hydrophobic 133

drewsup writes "Wolfgang Sigmund, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Florida, has created a material modeled after spider hairs that acts as a nearly perfect water-repelling surface. Quoting Science Daily: 'A paper about the surface, which works equally well with hot or cold water, appears in this month's edition of the journal Langmuir. Spiders use their water-repelling hairs to stay dry or avoid drowning, with water spiders capturing air bubbles and toting them underwater to breathe. Potential applications for UF's ultra-water-repellent surfaces are many, Sigmund said. When water scampers off the surface, it picks up and carries dirt with it, in effect making the surface self-cleaning. As such, it is ideal for some food packaging, or windows, or solar cells that must stay clean to gather sunlight, he said. Boat designers might coat hulls with it, making boats faster and more efficient.' Hairy glass, anyone?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New "Hairy" Material Is Almost Perfectly Hydrophobic

Comments Filter:
  • Hydrophopic (Score:3, Funny)

    by Stooshie ( 993666 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:56PM (#31391072) Journal
    People call me hydrophobic but it's like water off a ducks back to me.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      You know, there are treatments for your condition [drgreene.com]. There's no need to suffer!

    • Sure, but in the end, society has to foot the bill.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by AndrewBC ( 1675992 )
      Plus, the doctors are all quacks anyway.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Hydrophobia [wikipedia.org] is another name for rabies. Rabies is a pretty hairy disease! Nothing like a rabid duck to spoil your day.

  • So when can i chuck out my gore-tex jacket for something like this?
    • Re:Gore-tex (Score:5, Funny)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:00PM (#31391128)

      Al Gore is not going to be happy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      I doubt this material "breathes" the same way gore-tex does. Enjoy your sweat bath! :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        just put the spider fibres on the inside of the jacket and it repels the sweat.

        Probrem solved

        • I must be missing something, or the somebody modded without noticing a joke. We've had materials that would do a good job of sheeting water for sometime, but they don't breathe and one ends up getting very sweaty. If you don't put it on the inside, you probably would be able to have the moisture evaporate in between the hairs. Mainly because it's unlikely that steam would interact the same way.

          Also if you were to team it up with something that was somewhat polarized, you might be able to get an amazing a
          • Don't you see what genetically enhanced smart towels like these are capable of? You get out of the shower and dry yourself off. But even after you're dry, the towel makes you more dry. It keeps getting you drier and drier. Can you imagine it? What it would feel like to be way, way too dry? I'll tell you something: You don't want to know. And I don't know.
      • by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

        But if it's comfortable, it might make an excellent base layer.

  • by SnuffySmith ( 780790 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:57PM (#31391094)
    It has rabies?
  • Raw Data Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by cyberfunk2 ( 656339 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:00PM (#31391116)

    Available here free of charge:

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/suppl/10.1021/la903813g [acs.org]

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:07PM (#31391224) Journal
    Hairy food packaging. I think someone will come up with a better name for that material.
  • "See, it repels water .." STOMP! SQUISH! "... used to repel water."

    So much for the self-cleaning materials idea.

    • So much for the self-cleaning materials idea.

      I don't care about self-cleaning materials. I want a frictionless toilet.

      Kinda funny, but when reading The Mote in God's Eye [wikipedia.org], this idea was put forth by the science fiction writer after aliens altered and improved human technology. Loved it.

      • That was a great book! On a similar note (frictionless surfaces), I wonder if this could be applied towards the prevention of biofilms [wikipedia.org]. It would certainly be a great boon to many industries.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:08PM (#31391234) Journal

    Would there be a (very) thin layer of air between the boat and the water? Would there be a reduction in friction akin to the thin layer of water created when a skater's skates press down on the ice?

    Or would boats go faster because no barnacles or mussels could become fastened on the hull of a boat? (I've heard that this used to be combatted with very toxic copper based compounds, no idea what they use now). If these microscopic hairs that were lifted from spiders work really well in preventing "fouling", why haven't whales evolved the same?

    Just askin'.

    • by Guillermito ( 187510 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:47PM (#31391660) Homepage

      Since when evolution guarantees an optimal anatomical structure? If the whale body is "good enough" to survive and reproduce under the environmental conditions whales tend to live in, then why they should have evolved the same microscopic hairs that we see in spiders?

      • by rattaroaz ( 1491445 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @02:42PM (#31392306)
        Also, since when did evolution stop? Who knows if in another 100 million years, the whales may evolve microscopic hairs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by osu-neko ( 2604 )

          Indeed. It's worth nothing that, relatively speaking, whales are a fairly new evolutionary development. The first whales appear on the scene a mere 50 million years ago. The other question is one of competition. Some astoundingly suboptimal, inefficient designs have survived in nature for millions of years when they lacked significant competition or pressure in their niche. Whales don't seem to face a lot of competition or pressure, even less since we thinned their numbers in recent centuries.

          Long stor

          • Long story short, whales are unlikely to be anywhere near an optimal solution for their niche, and are unlikely to become one anytime soon.

            Especially if the Japs keep eating them.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Then, rather than all that swimming about, they can just spin their own fish nets :-)

        • Who knows if in another 100 million years, the whales may evolve microscopic hairs.

          And they can grow beards and learn to program in C.

      • by fucket ( 1256188 )
        Why would you think that evolution guarantees an optimal anything?
      • Since when evolution guarantees an optimal anatomical structure?

        Evolution is pretty good at finding local hilltops. It may have trouble figuring out it needs to get off this hill to reach a higher one over there. The short term advantage for whales, when they first went aquatic, was probably to reduce their hair. They've climbed that hill to nakedness and now they can't see their way to a skin covered in spider hair.

        If the whale body is "good enough" to survive and reproduce under the environmental conditions whales tend to live in

        This is a bad interpretation of Darwinism. Under natural conditions there were always some whales under stress and dying for one reason or another, other

      • My guess is that something that lives in water all the time shouldn't by hydrophobic. The water spiders primarily live in the air.

        An otherwise dry, watertight boat hull would be fine, but if a boat hull were made of flesh, a hydrophobic coating probably wouldn't work so well. That's why fish are slippery, not hairy.

        • My guess is that something that lives in water all the time shouldn't by hydrophobic. The water spiders primarily live in the air.

          An otherwise dry, watertight boat hull would be fine, but if a boat hull were made of flesh, a hydrophobic coating probably wouldn't work so well. That's why fish are slippery, not hairy.

          That's actually a very interesting point - I recall seeing something about using a permeated skin with micro-jets of air coming out of it to cut drag on trucks and airliners, maybe something similar could be done with boats (whether with air, water, or even oil).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      actually sharks have unidirectional scales and dolphins are hairy, neither are affected by barnacles like whales

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by anthony.vo ( 1581427 )
      Probably because barnacles evolved to attach to whales too. I'm just guessing, but the pressure for survival is probably greater for barnacles to attach to whales than for whales to get rid of barnacles, as they are not that affected by barnacles anyways.
    • by shermo ( 1284310 )

      That's the idea behind wet and drying the bottom of a boat. It's not a smooth finish, so it's supposed to provide a layer of trapped water between the boat and the flowing water.

    • Whales might shed dead cells off their hides, and having an expendable regenerative hull certainly makes cleaning easier.

      It's one fringe benefit for snakes shedding skins.

    • by Shark ( 78448 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:21PM (#31393232)

      (I've heard that this used to be combatted with very toxic copper based compounds, no idea what they use now).

      When I worked for some ship systems company, they used the desalination slurry (byproduct of the freshwater-making systems). Basically, they made the water around the ship too salty for things to want to stick around... Literally.

    • by RobVB ( 1566105 )

      From the Wikipedia page on dental denticles: [wikipedia.org]

      Studies have found that the denticles create tiny vortices that reduce drag to make swimming more efficient. Denticles also allow sharks to swim silently compared to other fish that generate considerable noise when they ply the water.

      Less drag means you can either go faster with the same power, or need less power (and use less fuel) at the same speed.

    • by orkysoft ( 93727 )

      If these microscopic hairs that were lifted from spiders work really well in preventing "fouling", why haven't whales evolved the same?

      Why haven't migratory birds evolved jet engines?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MacOS_Rules ( 170853 )

      Because just because you're ultra-hydrophobic, doesn't mean you're good at solving the problem of fouling.

      The toxics are being phased out, but there's not much yet to replace them.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofouling [wikipedia.org] is a very complex subject, with a lot of research dollars behind it these days.

      The skinny of it is that many proteins will expose their hydrophobic cores and thus denature onto these ultra-hydrophobic surfaces; I'd imagine these surfaces to be excellent in pure water, and terrible in anythi

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GooberToo ( 74388 )

      If these microscopic hairs that were lifted from spiders work really well in preventing "fouling", why haven't whales evolved the same?

      Sharks have evolved a mechanism which already works extremely well and is now actively being used for ocean faring ships [sharkskincoating.com]. Just because sharks have evolved such a mechanism, why would you assume whales would? Besides, sharks are predatory creatures, where the extra performance is likely key to their continued success, whereas most whales which suffer from fowling are typically not predatory.

  • Yogi Berra must have been hydrophobic too.
  • Inside tire treads? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by caywen ( 942955 )

    I'm sure the uses are limitless, but one thing I wonder is what would happen to a car's traction through puddles if you put this material in the treads of tires?

    • It would wear off rather quickly, unfortunately.

    • by krnpimpsta ( 906084 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:25PM (#31391390)
      Not to crap on your idea, but I don't think that would work. Tires are like pencil erasers. They lose material as you use them. Anything you put on the outside of a tire, that makes contact with the ground, will be rubbed off in less than a few hundred miles. For example, if you look at a new tire, it will typically have little nubs or rubber hairs all over it (these are a result of the molding process). After you drive on them for a few hundred miles, you'll see they get rubbed away/off.
      • by caywen ( 942955 )

        Certainly the inside of treads also get their share of weathering. However, it would remain to be seen if this material could withstand those conditions. Especially since the composition itself is flexible and using more hardy compounds would be an option.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        The hydrophobic material would be deposited inside the grooves, not where the rubber met the road.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      You might find that you'll get super hydroplaning. Then they'll wear away.

      • by caywen ( 942955 )

        Really? Even though they are inside the actual treads and not on the ground-facing surface of the tire? I would think water would flow through the treads better and thus prevent that.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          AH! In the channels of the treads. Probably not the hydroplaning then, but you would have a wear problem. Stuff gets into the channels all the time and frequently enough lodges there for a while.

  • This article is worthless without videos.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:21PM (#31391352)

    ... I asked my cat and she somehow didn`t look surprised. How many lifes does this new stuff have?

  • by Sir_Real ( 179104 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:45PM (#31391626)

    when the records start falling in the next olympics.

  • Self Cleaning (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sure it will be self cleaning for dirt, but I imagine that a something this hydrophobic is going to be a grease magnet. I can't wait to clean the chinese food off my spider coat.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At first I was going to make a snide comment along the lines of "ever heard of soap, aka a surfactant" but then I realized that if you can't really wet this substance, would it actually clean up with soap or not? I would guess yes, because the soap would still attach to the grease/oil but it may be a moot point anyway. Ever seen an oil soaked lotus leaf? That is a natural hydrophobic material, whose hydrophobic properties are also derived from its physical structure and not its chemistry. You also have to

  • The Problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by carp3_noct3m ( 1185697 ) <slashdot.warriors-shade@net> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @02:01PM (#31391800)
    The current problem they are having with it is that it is very fragile. If they can figure out how to apply this technique and keep it durable and mass producible then this really will change a lot of things. Its also pretty interesting how they note that we imagine things like this to have some uniformity, but they found that the pattern is strangely abstract, with some fibers being curved and some not etc. Anyway, cool stuff regardless.
  • by marciot ( 598356 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @02:21PM (#31392040)

    Sound true enough to me. Sometimes the people who don't shower are also hairy and disgusting.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure all those loose broken-off nanohairs, are going to do ahhhhhh my ahhhhhtsm-heeeee ... ahzm-whiiiiiiiiifffffffffff ... asthma .... ahhhhhhh - a lot of good.

    After all, they're technological. And therefore completely different from natural irritants - sucha as cat's hairs, pollen or random bursts of chelisserae (don't ask). :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LanMan04 ( 790429 )

      My wife really wanted a pet tarantula, but her Doctor advised against it due to the fact that she's a severe asthmatic.

      Those little spiky hairs get everywhere apparently.

  • by magus_melchior ( 262681 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @02:29PM (#31392162) Journal

    Here's the video [youtube.com]. Fascinating stuff-- the first sample is a copper plate with copper oxide crystals coated in a material very similar to Teflon.

  • What slick piece of engineering!

    (I'll be here all night ;)

  • There is a punk rock group in Russia named "Hairy glass" (translated from Russian of course, original reads "Volosatoye steklo")

  • by dvh.tosomja ( 1235032 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:18PM (#31392636)

    Another well known hairy material is asbestos. Just sayin'

  • What happens when there is a surfactant in the water?

    Also, not so sure that most spiders can stay completely dry like a polar bear can.

    Oh, by the way, don't bother trying to trademark the name 'Polar Hair'. It's already taken.

    • by ^_^x ( 178540 )

      Well, with existing tech, I have some shirts I got a few years ago with a nanomaterial coating based on small hairs - if you're splashed with a little water, it will bead up and roll off. It washes normally though because once detergent is added it soaks in with no problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:38PM (#31392844)

    Superhydrophobicity by thin trapped air layers is not new at all - I recall seeing a seminar in my physics department ~10 years ago. The self-cleaning aspect does work nicely, but generally the surface structures lack the durability to last long enough to be useful. It also doesn't work for boat hulls because the air slowly dissolves into the water until the trapped air layer is lost.

  • What good is it not to touch water, when you are touching a spider hair surface instead? I can keep dry just as well, by covering it in a rubber suit. ^^

  • by Black Gold Alchemist ( 1747136 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:19PM (#31394390)
    It seems like this would be good as a battery/fuel cell air cathode. You could put this stuff, then a layer of activated charcoal, then a current collector. This would cause the water-air interface to be somewhere inside the activated charcoal, so you would end up with a huge surface area of the air/water interface. This would improve alkaline fuel cells of all types (aluminium, iron, zinc and hydrogen).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    'A paper about the surface, which works equally well

    When it seems the paper the wrote works equally well?


  • Hairy? Check. Water-repellent? Check. How hard is this, guys?
  • I'd like to see this stuff on the interiors of convertibles and boats. Shirts too.
    • How about coating all those bathroom and kitchen surfaces that require frequent cleaning... sink, toilet, shower, tub, kitchen counters, refrigerators. Self cleaning surfaces... my idea of almost heaven.

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.