Engineering researchers have crafted a flat surface that refuses to get wet. Water droplets skitter across it like ball bearings tossed on ice. The inspiration? Not wax. Not glass. Not even Teflon. Instead, University of Florida engineers have achieved what they label in a new paper a “nearly perfect hydrophobic interface” by reproducing, on small bits of flat plastic, the shape and patterns of the minute hairs that grow on the bodies of spiders.
Researchers led by professor Wolfgang Sigmund of the University of Florida based their design on the discovery that spider hairs are not uniform, but vary in length and form. The team has been able to develop a plastic surface that repels both water and oil due to its physical (rather than chemical) properties. Although the Lotus Effect also repels water due to its nano-structure, Sigmund's surfaces appear to be even more hydrophobic and can repel oil. Applications include food packaging, windows, solar cells and boat hulls.
Sigmund's work has been published at Artificial Hairy Surfaces with a Nearly Perfect Hydrophobic Response (subscription required).
Thanks to Biomimicry: Chemical-Free Water-Blocking Material Inspired By Spider Hair for the pointer!