Scientists from the University of Rochester have created water-repelling metal by laser-etching nanostructures into the surface. Watch as water droplets bounce like water balloons off of the metal’s super-hydrophobic surface.

More effective than Teflon, applications of this microscopic metal-etching could be game-changing in a wide variety of industries. It would also be safer and more durable than using temporary chemical coatings that leach and wear off. From Live Science:

Laser-etched coatings on airplanes could prevent dangerous ice from building up on the wings. Etched surfaces could also be used to keep toilets clean in developing countries, where water is scarce —a use that has drawn interest from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the work.

In previous work, the researchers used a similar laser-patterning technique to turn metals black by making them very optically absorbent. The combination of these light-absorbing and water-repelling properties could produce more efficient solar panels that wouldn’t rust and would require less cleaning, the researchers said.

Collecting rainwater would be much easier, too. Do you think the drops trap air and release tiny bubbles the way they do on more porous surfaces? What would you use this futuristic, multifunctional metal for?

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File under innovation and biomimicry. Related videos: Leidenfrost Mazes, the fantastic fur of sea otters, turning poop to potable water, revolutionizing sanitation in India… and speaking of nanostructures, what gives the Morpho Butterfly its magnificent blue?

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