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Water-Repellent 'Bumpy' Glass Mimics Lotus Leaves

The lotus is a good model for a water-repellent surface; the leaves are waxy and covered with tiny bumps that make water roll off. Surfaces like that of ordinary glass are naturally wettable; when water is poured on, its surface tension is reduced so it spreads. On a car windshield, this effect can distort vision; also, material dissolved in the water will remain on the glass when the water evaporates, making the glass dirty.

Bharat Bhushan is using the lotus leaf solution to create water-repellent and friction-free surfaces. When examined closely, lotus leaves are bumpy (see micrograph below). The bumps are smaller than a droplet of water, and much closer together; they don't puncture the droplet, which rolls off without wetting the surface


(From Bumpy Glass Self-Cleaning Windows)

Drivers can spray special coatings onto windshields that make the surface water-repellent, but the coatings wear off. If the water-repellent characteristic can be built into the glass itself, it will last for the life of the glass. Dr. Bhushan is also hopeful that this technique can work to make moving parts in micromachines effectively frictionless.

In Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune, many technological details are provided about the Fremen culture of the planet. Dune has no surface water; all water is precious and is carefully measured and stored.

A splashing sounded on her left. She looked down the shadowy line of Fremen, saw Stilgar with Paul standing beside him and the watermasters emptying their load into the pool through a flowmeter. The meter was a round gray eye above the pool's rim. She saw its glowing pointer move as the water flowed through it, saw the pointer stop at thirty-three liters, seven and three-thirty-seconds drachms.

Superb accuracy in water measurement, Jessica thought. And she noted that the walls of the meter trough held no trace of moisture after the water's passage. The water flowed off those walls without binding tension. She saw a profound clue to Fremen technology in the simple fact: they were perfectionists.

Read the original press release Bumpy glass could lead to self-cleaning windows, slik micromachines.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/30/2005)

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