The New Scientist is reporting on the development of a new highly water resistant material that may be used to make surgical suits or other devices that rely on hydrophobic properties.
The secret to this incredible water resistance is the layer of silicone nanofilaments, which are highly chemically hydrophobic. The spiky structure of the 40-nanometre-wide filaments strengthens that effect, to create a coating that prevents water droplets from soaking through the coating to the polyester fibres underneath.
“The combination of the hydrophobic surface chemistry and the nanostructure of the coating results in the super-hydrophobic effect,” Seeger [Stefan Seeger, lead researcher on the project] explained to New Scientist. “The water comes to rest on the top of the nanofilaments like a fakir sitting on a bed of nails,” he says.
A similar combination of water-repelling substances and tiny nanostructures is responsible for many natural examples of extreme water resistance, such as the surface of Lotus leaves.
The silicone nanofilaments also trap a layer of air between them, to create a permanent air layer. Similar layers – known as plastrons – are used by some insects and spiders to breathe underwater.
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