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Super Water Repellent

March 16, 2010

Engineers have tapped the hairs on spider legs to develop the ultimate water-repellent surface.


A near-perfect water repellent. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

University of Florida engineers have developed a surface so water-repellent that droplets roll off it like ball bearings. They modeled it on spider legs, which are covered with tiny, water-repelling hairs. Materials scientist Wolfgang Sigmund says they tried to improve upon the hairs’ naturally crinkled, irregular pattern – but it turned out Nature knew best.

WOLFGANG SIGMUND (University of Florida):
The perfect structures work, of course, but they don’t work as well as structures that are actually more damaged-looking.

Sigmund says the material’s nearly frictionless interaction with water may have all sorts of applications. For example, it could reduce the energy needed to pump water through plumbing. It could also be used in easy-clean coatings, since water picks up dirt and debris as it rolls off the surface. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.