Replicating the effects of nature seems to be a pre-occupation of scientists, and for those at the Nokia Research Centre attempting to replicate the way water rolls off a leaf is only one way of developing future smartphone designs. Thankfully, they’ve found a way to replicate the same effect, using nanotechnology.
“Like many scientists we are trying to copy what nature has been doing perfectly for thousands of years,” says Chris Bower, Principal Scientist at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge.
To do this, the team is in the final stages of designing a Superhydrophobic coating that can be applied to the outside of future Nokia phones.
What is Superhydrophobic coating, and how does it work?
The coating works in a similar fashion to the Teflon non-stick coating used on frying pans.In tests without the coating, water falls and coats the surface of an object. But in tests with the Superhydrophobic coating water drops and bounces up again, before skidding over the surface. “Superhydrophobic coatings have a contact angle that can approach 180 degrees – and the liquid forms discrete drops that literally bounce off the surface. The difference is the nano-structured coating, trapping air at the interface, that makes sure the liquid never actually touches the surface.”
Can it be used on Nokia phones?
It already is, in tests. The Nokia Research Centre has found that adding the coating to a Nokia Lumia 710 has the same effect using a layer of Graphene treated with a superhydrophobic coating that forces water to roll of the phone.
The benefit is that it will survive more than a few drops of water. You could potentially drop your Superhydrophobic-coated phone into a bowl of water and see it survive. “It will improve the water resistance, fingerprint resistance and antireflection properties of the device.”
Will we see Superhydrophobic phones anytime soon?
The technology is not ready just yet. The biggest hurdle is developing a coating strong enough for daily wear and tear. Bower reveals that the Nokia Research Team is close to perfecting a coating tough enough to be used externally. So the new phones could arrive sooner than we think.
Superhydrophobic coatings aren’t the only new technology the team is working on.
The busy team of scientists are also working on nanotechnologies that will enable future Nokia phones to stretch.
Check out the Nokia Research Centre photos of Super-Hydro in action: