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New Nanotech Fabric Never Gets Wet 231

holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports on a simple coating for polyester that renders it unwettable — even after two months underwater it emerges dry to the touch. Water cannot attach to the new fabric thanks to nanostructured filaments and a structure that traps a constant air layer. One potential use is for low-drag swim wear."
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New Nanotech Fabric Never Gets Wet

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  • by beh (4759) * on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:10AM (#25886131)

    Water can't penetrate it - that means, rain stays outside... Good idea...

    But it also means, all your sweat stays INSIDE... BAD idea...
    I don't even want to know how soaked I'd feel after cycling for half an hour wearing a 'rain-coat' like that to keep me 'dry'!

    • by Andr T. (1006215) <> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:13AM (#25886171)
      Even worse, you can't wash it:

      Unlike some water-resistant coatings, it remains more-or-less intact when the fabric is rubbed vigorously, although it didn't survive an everyday washing machine cycle.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:18AM (#25886259) Journal
      While some sort of one way fabric would be even better, and presumably awaits the next round of freaky nanotech, there is nothing stopping you from using macroscale features to deal with that problem. Strategically placed vent slits or similar should be able to let sweat out and allow a modicum of air circulation without letting rain in.

      Cold weather gear would be trickier; but I suspect that the same basic mixed strategy approach would work.
    • by cowscows (103644) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:20AM (#25886279) Journal

      I'd imagine that with a little cleverness and effort, it'd be possible to come up with a rain jacket design that had a decent amount of venting in places that were adequately protected from rain. I own a jacket that has zippers under the armpits that you can open to allow some cooling. You still probably wouldn't be very comfortable running a marathon in it, but for day-to-day wear, I'm sure it could be quite comfortable. Designing in more venting wouldn't be impossible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sun.Jedi (1280674)

      But it also means, all your sweat stays INSIDE... BAD idea...

      It can't be as bad being completely painted gold []. :D

      I won't dispute any medical issues from being submerged in your own sweat -- IANAD. They did seem similar to me, however. The article did not mention if the waterproofing was one-way or both.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by R2.0 (532027)

        As millions of high school wrestlers will attest, wearing an impermeble garment can be done. Hell, I used to SLEEP in a loose PVC top to sweat off water before a match. The possible consequences include dehydration, heat stroke/exhaustion, and repelling your love ones with your stench.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aliquis (678370)

      Liquid water and water vapor isn't the same thing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by NatasRevol (731260)

        How the hell is this insightful?

        Chemically, yes they are the exact same thing.

        Physically, they're always present together in dynamic equilibrium. There is always a vapor pressure with liquid water, at least at the temps & pressures of clothing.

        • by aliquis (678370) <> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:22PM (#25888017) Homepage

          Because they will work totally different on the fabric? Just as your shoes won't react to water vapor in the same way as they do with ice ...

          The vapor has small "parts", the fluid water is held together in bigger parts. Just because a fluid don't pass the fabric the vapor don't need to have the same problem. See Goretex or any other functional fabric.

          Just because the fabric don't get wet by the fluid water don't mean vapor can't pass it, it may be so but it don't have to.

      • by DanZ23 (901353) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ikswejimzd.> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:03PM (#25887779)

        This is how Gore-Tex works. You can actually sit on water and it will not come thru the membrane, but water vapor passes thru.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by fprintf (82740)

          I have worn drysuits that are made of breathable fabric. While underwater they do not let any liquids inside (except for a tiny bit of occasional seeping at the wrist, ankle and neck gaskets) and yet as soon as I come to the surface the fabric starts to breathe. Since I am a sailor, not a diver, I spend most of my time above water so the breathability is key. I haven't taken the suit diving (nor would I since you need specially designed suits) as I am pretty sure the breathability doesn't help when underwat

    • by theTrueMikeBrown (1109161) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:32AM (#25886459) Homepage
      I don't think that that would really be a problem - the sweat can still evaporate and leave as water vapor
    • You just need to activate the built in drier and you'll be fine. Comes in handy when you fall off your hove^H^H^H^H bike and you need to dry off.

    • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:33AM (#25886471) Homepage
      Wouldn't it be nasty if the outside were hydrophobic and the inside hydrophylic - your sweat would be yanked into the material and violently ejected from the other side! You'd look like your own Vegas water fountain show as you ran along.
    • by Phase Shifter (70817) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:41AM (#25886615) Homepage

      I don't even want to know how soaked I'd feel after cycling for half an hour wearing a 'rain-coat' like that to keep me 'dry'!

      Liquid water can't adhere to the surface of the fibers. Water vapor should be able to penetrate the fabric just fine--which is exactly the way you want it if you plan to avoid heat exhaustion while biking.

    • It is still great for water-colling electronics. There are probably several other applications, it is just a matter of thinking about them.
    • by ccguy (1116865) *

      I'd feel after cycling for half an hour

      What, you mean in these two decades since I last rode a bike there hasn't been any progress here? So exactly what have you guys been doing while we were making sure Moore's law didn't fail?

    • by hondo77 (324058)

      I don't even want to know how soaked I'd feel after cycling for half an hour wearing a 'rain-coat' like that to keep me 'dry'!

      That's why good cycling rain jackets have vents [].

    • But it also means, all your sweat stays INSIDE... BAD idea...

      No, not at all. This coating would act just like Gortex. Vapour could pass but not liquid

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Capes and robes make a comeback just like cyberpunk predicts.
  • funny but. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:14AM (#25886197) Homepage Journal

    I was wondering if it could be used for Ships to lower their drag, or to line the inside of pipes.
    Not the fabric mind you but the coating.

  • In reference to this article I would like to direct readers to the movie "The man in the white suit" [] to learn more about the dangers of creating nanotech clothing.

  • by nobodylocalhost (1343981) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:23AM (#25886321)

    i wonder if they tested this in oil. if it is both water resistant and oil resistant, it would make a very good material for table cloths, chair cover, couch cover, pillow cover, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HexaByte (817350)
      Not table cloths! I agree with the others, but in most cases (I have young kids) I want a spill to be absorbed down to a non-porous backing. That way when the milk/juice/water spills, it doesn't spread it everywhere else on the table, getting everything else wet. Especially my laptop!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:23AM (#25886337)

    This stuff would be great under roofing tiles/shingles. This has FAR more uses than clothing.

  • by Leafheart (1120885) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:28AM (#25886399)

    There are many important places where we can use it, besides gain an edge on competitive sports (yeah, I know, money talks).

    • If the coating can be used on anything else, I say we have a pretty serious application on anything that deals with salty water.
    • Still on the topic of swimming, how good it is the thermal isolation on this things? Can it be made to better diving suits?
    • Ship sails that do not get wet.
    • Protective clothes and other fabric for people on icy\snowy places. Specially mountaineers and the guys down at Antarctica.
    • Is it only water or any liquid? I mean, can I spray alcohol and it won't stick? What about mud? Will it only be the earth particles on the cloth and the liquid will pour off?
    • by squoozer (730327)

      I've not RTFA but my guess is that this will only work water. It's not like PTFE (Teflon) which is almost inert it's a nano-material that traps a layer of air. The water probably can't wet the fabric due to surface tension. Most liquids have very low surface tensions so would be able to wet the fabric. Water is rather unique in having a high surface tension due to extensive hydrogen bonding.

  • Swimwear? Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:37AM (#25886541)

    Talk about setting the bar low. What about skins for submersible craft. Stealth sub tech? I find it odd that, on /. of all places, the first thought to implement badass new technology is on sports...

    • by kat_skan (5219)

      Indeed. This technology has vastly more important applications for making really cool videos and putting them on YouTube [].

    • by fotbr (855184)

      You'd rather continue the stereotype of war-mongering Americans?

      My first thought was applying the coating to ropes, since I enjoy sailing. If the ropes won't get wet, they won't rot as easily, and might be easier to handle.

      Besides, as far as submarines are concerned, stealth comes from being quiet. Don't see how this would do much to help absorb noise. It might help with speed, but probably not a whole lot. Low drag is a lot more beneficial when you've only got one human-power moving you, compared to a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Taibhsear (1286214)

        You'd rather continue the stereotype of war-mongering Americans?

        Who said anything about war or weapons? Subs can be used for recon, science, rescue, etc. Cutting down drag can increase speed, engine efficiency, and decrease noise. Hard to find neat new sea critters when they hear you miles away. Hell, maybe even coat the propellers on large ships.

    • I know right? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hellfire (86129)

      Hell the first thing I thought of wasn't sports, but safety. Is this something you can make work clothes out of so that if you work on a boat or pier, if you fall in, can it be made so your clothes don't absorb water and make it harder for you to swim to safety. If the water doesn't get absorbed, you could put a layer of insulation underneath it to help stay warm in cold water to help defend you from hypothermia.

      But obviously the money is in selling a swimmer a $10,000 swimsuit so they can shave .02 secon

    • by MojoRilla (591502)
      Why not a swimsuit? People are already paying $550 US for a high tech swimsuit []. Plus, making world record setting sports technology is a good way to market your product, even to other applications.

      Also, swimsuits aren't life or death equipment meaning they won't require as much testing, adding this material doesn't require a redesign of the whole suit, the amount of material needed is very small, they don't require environmental impact studies (as boat coatings would), etc.
    • If this stuff costs thousands of dollars per square yard it would be financially viable for swimsuits and other items that use smaller amounts. A single win as a swimsuit would probably pay for itself in endorsements. However it would quickly become economically unsound for large items. It's probably not worth hundreds of millions of dollars to coat a sub with it.

    • The cold war is over, no one is interested in the best military equipment, price rules. The stealthy Seawolf subs got cancelled in favour of the cheaper Virginias.

  • by marquis111 (94760) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:39AM (#25886587)

    Reminds me of what the Fremen used to coat their underwater water stores.

    I wonder what new and strange water behavior could be observed in a container lined in this. Would there be a meniscus -- either convex or concave -- when water was put into it? Or would the water huddle nervously in the middle, unsure of what do with itself?

  • I think men around the world are already lining up for the chance to pee on this stuff....

    On a somewhat serious note, though, this stuff sounds like the perfect lining for urinals!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @11:02AM (#25886895)

    Does the water get it instead?
    Nobody knows.
    Particle Man.

  • ...of photo-icons which appear on these stories! Poor Einstein looks like he's going to get seriously injured by a falling motherboard. As far as this cloth goes, I don't see that it is necessarily stated that the it prevents water from permeating, just that the cloth itself doesn't get wet.
  • How about soapy water?

  • a pocket protector and a parrot tie, and you're all set for an interview

  • One potential use is for low-drag swim wear.

    Yeah, it's a real drag having to get wet when going for a swim.

  • old news. but cool! (Score:5, Informative)

    by famebait (450028) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @11:25AM (#25887269)

    Superhydrophobic surfaces and textile coverings have been around for a little while.
    The news here is the one-step solvent-free process,
    which will make industrialization a lot cheaper.

    Youtube has lots on "superhydrophobic" and "nanotech fabric/textile"

    Here's a cool demo: they sink a white sofa into a read bath, and pull it out again spotless: []

  • All this work all they need to do is Render it Pink and put a SEP field around it.

  • ...on the towels in public restrooms?

  • Knit some of this stuff over top of a submarine shell, and you should get incredible speed improvements. Anyone need a nano-submarine sweater?
  • Hmph (Score:2, Funny)

    by ewhac (5844)
    This is nothing new. It sounds like the napkins in half the restaurants I visit.


  • Polyester leisure suits have been keeping women dry for years.

"All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in. I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin" -- They Might Be Giants