Superhydrophobic Style


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
21 Monday 21st November 2011

All jokes aside, there has been some pretty intense research going on in this relatively unknown field for some time. About three years ago, scientists at the University of Zurich made a breakthrough when they created the perfect balance of silicone nanoparticles to make a material waterproof and water-repellent. As in, if you had a raincoat made out of this stuff and soaked it in a huge vat of water for two months, it would basically come out good as new at the end of it. Try that now and you’ll probably just have an eternally ruined and damp-smelling coat. Under the watchful eye of Stefan Seeger, the Zurich research team then paved the way for the application of these types of nanofibres in other ways.


Case number one: trainers. People who love them do so with almost terrifying amounts of passion, and there’s nothing quite like a muddy puddle of city filth to bring a lover of a pristine trainer to his knees. So when this video (above) started making the rounds on the internet last week, I can only imagine the tears of joy that rolled down the faces of trainer obsessive everywhere. Ross Technology, the makers of NeverWet, are using chocolate sauce and white trainers to blow everyone’s minds and hopefully up their sales.

Their spray works by making water shoot off whichever surface its sprayed on to, thanks to a little something called the contact angle. Measured from the centre of a water droplet, when a contact angle is higher than 90 degrees it means the water begins to bead rather than soak in or pool. Over 150 degrees (the technical baseline for any substance considered hydrophobic) it almost forms a perfect sphere sitting on top of the surface. Well, sitting for a split second before it jumps off, of course.

Case number two: swimwear. While more hydrophilic than superhydrophobic varieties, there’s still a market for swimsuit and trunks that dry almost instantly when taken out of the pool. Plus, the fact that the pool’s water will be trying to spring away from you might make them better for gliding through the water. Speedo and a company called Sun Dry Swim have both developed two different strains of these nanofibres. In Speedo’s case, they’re all about optimising speed through the water, while Sun Dry just seem to want to make suits that dry fast (and don't look particularly great either).

A P2i demo video from CES 2011, showing how they do their thing with tissues

Case number three: eyewear. For all those rainy evenings when you’ve popped on your moped then struggled to see a damn thing through a wet visor screen, company P2i think they've got the solution. They use nanotechnology to coat sunglasses, clothes and apparently even K-Swiss trainers. Waterproof everything is the name of their game, but their research originally started on plastic and glass.


So if you’ve got the cash, which superhydrophobic togs do you think you’ll be investing in?

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