By scientific law, there is always someone who spills red wine on the sofa or carpet at a drinks party. Strangely, that person never owns up either. But imagine if you could chuck a glass of red wine, a bucket of red wine even, over a pure white sofa and see the wine turn to beads and role off the material, leaving absolutely no stain whatsoever.

Superhydrophobic

However ludicrous this may sound, American inventor, Mark Shaw, has created a superhydrophobic, nanotechnology spray that can do just that. Called Ultra-Ever Dry, it can be applied to almost any material and can completely repel any liquid.

Shaw says, “It’s not just water that this works with. It’s a lot of water-based materials like concrete, water-based paint, mud, and also some refined oils as well.”

There’s an umbrella of air all across it

In his TED talk, above, Shaw shows how impressive this spray is with a series of demonstrations. Starting with a cinder block, one half coated in the spray, the other not, he pours a green liquid over it. On the untreated side, the liquid soaks into the block but on the other half it simply rolls off and the area remains completely dry.

Nanoparticles

He then proceeds to put a pair of gloved hands into a tank of water. Again, one is coated, the other not. When he pulls the gloves out the treated one is completely dry – it is strange to watch because it completely goes against our understanding of what happens when you soak something in water.

Shaw explains how it works: “The surface of the spray coating is actually filled with nanoparticles that form a very rough and craggy surface. You’d think it’d be smooth, but it’s actually not. And it has billions of interstitial spaces, and those spaces, along with the nanoparticles, reach up and grab the air molecules and cover the surface with air. It’s an umbrella of air all across it, and that layer of air is what the water hits, the mud hits, the concrete hits, and it glides right off.”

To get an idea of how small these nanoparticles actually are Shaw draws a comparison with hair. He says, “The way you measure nanotechnology is in nanometres, and one nanometre is a billionth of a meter, and to put some scale to that, if you had a nanoparticle that was one nanometre thick, and you put it side by side, and you had 50,000 of them, that would be the width of a human hair. So very small, but very useful.”

Applications

Most extraordinary of all the demonstrations as shown in the TED video involves a glass plate coated with Ultra-Ever Dry except for a small square in the middle. He pours a liquid onto the middle of the glass and it spreads out as far as the untreated parameters before halting and forming a perfect square of liquid. Even when Shaw pushes the liquid with his hand it refuses to spill over into the sprayed area.

It could be used for things that need to be self-cleaning

This type of technology could be used for myriad applications. Shaw says, “[It] could be anything that’s anti-wetting. It could be anything that’s anti-icing, because if you don’t have water, you don’t have ice. It could be anti-corrosion – no water, no corrosion. It could be anti-bacterial – without water the bacteria won’t survive. And it could be used for things that need to be self-cleaning as well.”

For his final ‘magic trick’, Shaw throws a pot of red paint over a white canvas, upon which the letters T-E-D have been invisibly sprayed onto the surface. The paint covers the canvas for a few seconds but then, slowly but surely, the letters start to emerge, perfectly white and dry.


Do you have an idea that could benefit society? Then #GetItDownOnPaper and you could win a paid internship at Sharp Laboratories of Europe.


For more information on Ultra-Ever Dry go to UltraTech


Picture credit: UltraTech


For related articles on Humans Invent please read:

The concrete tent you can pitch in one hour

Modeled on man: Breathable skin for buildings

Behind London’s Wall of Steel: Designing the Thames Barrier

It’s alive! The intelligent office of the future

Smart Cities: Using data to stop a congestion meltdown

The Lizard lifeboat station: Designing on a cliff face

Breaking the rules: Harry Beck and the London tube map

New London Architecture: Planning for capital’s future

Built to last: The philosophy of architect George Clarke

Model village: Charlie Luxton’s carbon cutting scheme

The 30-storey hotel built in 15 days!

Extreme plumbing: Pumping water up the Shard

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