by Anupum Pant
It is almost impossible to get a lotus leaf wet. If you try pouring water on it, you’ll see that it will form little beads of water and quickly roll out of the leaf. This happens because a lotus leaf is super-hydrophobic. Although, even your raincoat doesn’t get wet, it isn’t super-hydrophobic. Water sticks to on the surface of a raincoat. Super-hydrophobic surfaces don’t let water stick on it. But how do they manage to do that?
The science – Contact angle
Every time a liquid sits on the surface of a solid, the liquid drop forms an angle of contact as shown below. Things that don’t get wet have a contact angle greater than 90 degrees and the ones that get wet form an angle lesser than 90 degrees. The greatest angle is always less than 180 degrees. Theoretically, a perfect bead will form at that angle.
Super-hydrophobic surfaces are able to push this angle to as high as 175 degrees to form almost a perfectly spherical water droplet on the surface (due to very high surface energy). This ensures that as soon as water falls on it, it rolls away. The surface never gets wet.
Imagine things never getting wet. How about a completely water resistant phone, a shoe that never gets dirty, shirts that repel ice-cream and wind-screens rolling away rain droplets like magic? All these things are possible, if they can be converted into super-hydrophobic surfaces. [They can be. Watch the video below]
Besides repelling water, these surfaces can also prevent formation of ice, resist corrosion and prevent bacteria from sticking to it. The possibilities are endless.
How to do it artificially?
Today, we have managed to develop several artificial methods to make almost any surface super-hydrophobic. Commercial services like NeverWet, HydroBead and Lotus leaf coatings are making a roar in the market by offering amazing promises. Normally, they use simplified spray coatings to convert normal surfaces to super-hydrophobic surfaces, so any one can use them, anywhere.