In 2012, a company called UltraTech produced a TED Talk and a video demonstrating its superhydrophobic coating which repels almost any liquid. The video went viral with over 12 million views.
One problem with the product was that the coating were too fragile for situations – from clothing to ship hulls – where there was likely to be a lot of abuse.
University of Michigan scientists have now developed a new coating, which they are planning to commercialise as HygraTek, to overcome this problem. The previous coating relied on a very specialized but inflexible geometry that prevents water droplets from seeping in but becomes ineffective when that geometry is disrupted. The new coating employs a more flexible geometry which is somewhat less effective in repelling water but is extremely tough and can repair itself hundreds of times. The composition of the coating can be fine-tuned for particular applications.
One potential application of the coating is to significantly improve the efficiency of ships.