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Waterproof Coats: Materials repel water with simplicity, style

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11:32am, February 26, 2003

Scientists have long sought new coatings that zealously repel water. This week, publications describe two promising finds. Research from Japan shows that water-repellant materials can also be decorative. In a separate report, Turkish researchers describe a way to convert a plastic into a new type of cheap, easily produced waterproofing.

Although their final coatings are different, both teams took their inspiration from nature–from the wings of a butterfly and the leaves of the lotus plant. The microscopically rough surfaces of these organisms prevent water drops from flattening, so the drops roll off and carry away dirt. Because water beads so well on these surfaces, they're called superhydrophobic.

Using the brilliantly blue Morpho sulkowskyi butterfly as their model, Zhong-Ze Gu of the Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology in Japan and his coworkers designed a synthetic superhydrophobic coating in a variety of bright colors. The microstructure

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