Spiders use these hairs to stay dry or avoid drowning. By mimicking spiders, engineering researchers from the University of Florida (UF) have created what they call a “nearly perfect hydrophobic interface”. By using plastic to reproduce the shape and patterns of the minute hairs that grow on the bodies of spiders, the researchers have created one of the most water-repelling surfaces yet.
Wolfgang Sigmund, a professor of materials science and engineering at the UF, began working on the project about five years ago after picking up on the work of a colleague. Close-up photographs of water droplets on dime-sized plastic squares show that the droplets maintain their spherical shape, whether standing still or moving. Sigmund said his surface is the first to shuttle droplets with no tail. The surface works equally well with hot or cold water, and Sigmund claims a variation of the surface also repels oil – a first for the industry.