Wednesday, 28 January 2015

material sciences or teflon don

The ever brilliant Colossal featured a keen and imaginative report on a research project—illustrated with some very fine visual effects, wherein an optics laboratory has imbued metallic surfaces with the quality of hydrophobia to the degree that water droplets roll and bounce away—in a mesmerising fashion, almost water globules floating away in microgravity.
Unlike the conventional ways of creating this effect with chemical coatings—which can be toxic and wear off over time, the scientists etch nanoscopic landscapes into the surface with precision lasers, which apparently resists degradation. A little speculation quickly leads to all sorts of possible applications, from pipes and plumbing—sanitation stations that don’t need extra water to be kept clean—better rust-proofing and airplanes that won’t require being chemically de-iced. I wonder what other special properties that very fine texturising techniques could awaken in ordinary materials. Maybe tiling and quilting a surface, on a scale otherwise undetectable, might make everyday materials rather supernatural: housings and cases and building materials capable of absorbing and retaining heat, an efficient insulator employed instead of conventional refrigeration, better acoustics, germ free surfaces without antibiotics, made too slippery in microscopic dimensions, or even plain old counter tops and banisters that could channel energy like fibre-optics.