Nature inspires most waterproof material ever created

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

nasturtium
Nasturtium leaves reflect water droplets.

In the science of biomimicry, researchers study biology to mimic (copy) its genius in areas like medicine and technology.

For instance, a team from MIT created the most waterproof material ever, by imitating butterfly wings and nasturtium leaves. These two surfaces are naturally hydrophobic (“hydro” meaning water and “phobic” meaning fear), because H20 seems to run away from them!

The faster that drops of water bounce or roll off an object, the drier it stays. By making the area that water hits sharply angled, only a tiny part of it actually touches the liquid. Water-resistant technology in the past has focused on this fact, but MIT decided to take a different approach.

Rather than reducing the contact area size, they increased it in a way that reduces the time water stays on it. This keeps objects drier by shattering droplets into split pieces.

Nasturtium leaf veins and Morpho butterfly wings are structured in a way that reduces the time water spends on them, which is where MIT drew their inspiration from.

MIT Professor Kripa Varanasi said, “We believe these are the most super-hydrophobic surfaces yet,” and that he sees it being used in everything from sportswear to tents. As for what’s next, he explained, “Now we need to bring in the designers – how can you make a fabric that has these new features?”


Featured image courtesy of Anita Ritenour on Flickr. Image of nasturtium leaves courtesy of Kevin Krejci on Flickr.