Move Over, iPhone 7: Scientists Invent Superhydrophobic Coating

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How’s this for innovation? While the iPhone 7’s waterproof design turned heads when it was announced Wednesday, scientists have created a new hydrophobic coating that makes Tim Cook’s latest phone look decidedly ancient. A team at the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at Australia’s National University (the ANU) created a coating that’s transparent, resistant to ultraviolet radiation, and cheaper than current solutions.

“The surface is a layer of nanoparticles, which water slides off as if it’s on a hot barbecue,” William Wong, a Ph.D. student from the ANU, told Business Insider Australia in a report published Wednesday.

The coating combines two plastics together, one harder and one more malleable, using two different methods depending on the application. The solution can be created by dissolving the two plastics in low-temperature use cases, or for situations where the coating will be used in hotter areas, the team was able to burn the plastics together.

“The key innovation is that this transparent coating is able to stabilise very fragile nanomaterials resulting in ultra-durable nanotextures with numerous real-world applications,” Antonio Tricoli, the lab’s lead researcher, told Business Insider Australia.

The team claims the coating could eventually be used in mobile devices, something that could transform the tradeoffs made in achieving waterproofing. Part of the reason why Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 was to aid with water resistance, while the new Apple Watch features a redesigned speaker to achieve a better submersion rating for use in swimming workouts.

Superhydrophobic technology is big news for device makers. Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel is funding a lab working on a similar technology through his Breakout Labs venture. NASA has also been exploring the possibilities for superhydrophobic materials, with astronaut Scott Kelly playing an out-of-this-world game of ping pong in space with specially coated paddles and a floating ball of water.

Watch the ANU’s new coating in action here:

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