Water-Repellent Metal

Rust-prone metal may soon be a thing of the past thanks to two University of Rochester scientists.

Through their use of powerful laser beams, the surface of metal will now last longer as well as having the material become more practical in a broader range of purpose.

The process is detailed in the Journal of Applied Physics, but what it does is change the surface of metals by repeatedly subjecting the surface to bursts of lasers.

Water cannot adhere to or saturate metal surfaces when treated to this process.

“Some potential applications for anti-icing surfaces include protection of aerofoils, power transmission lines, pipes of air conditioners and refrigerators, and radar or telecommunication antennas.” Guo and Vorobyev (Journal of Applied Physics).

Surfaces that are more slippery than Teflon, which is less capable of being water-repellent.

A test conducted using vacuum cleaner dust the scientists shook onto the treated surface was removed with a dozen drops of water.

Treated metals absorb more light, making them likely solar industry candidates for more efficient conversion of solar to thermal or electrical energy.

The Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation provided $620,000 as a way of helping to bring better sanitation to developing nations.  The U.S.A.F. Office of Scientific Research gave $750,000 toward this research.

Before this new process can be used in practical applications, more research is needed. It took the scientists an hour to treat a 1″ -by- 1″ sample, requiring very short laser bursts lasting a femtosecond (a millionth of a billionth of a second).

According to Guo, the laser treatments have also proved successful using aluminum and stainless steel.

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