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Metal that Refuses to Sink, Inspired by Ants and Spriders

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University of Rochester researchers, inspired by diving bell spiders and rafts of fire ants, have created a metallic structure that is so water repellent, it refuses to sink—no matter how often it is forced into water or how much it is damaged or punctured.

Could this lead to an unsinkable ship? A wearable flotation device that will still float after being punctured? Electronic monitoring devices that can survive in long term in the ocean?

A metallic structure etched lasers, right, floats to the top on the water’s surface in professor Chunlei Guo’s lab. 

two small metal discs submerged in a glass beaker filled with water, one stays sunk at the bottom, the other floats up to the surface
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster
All of the above, says Chunlei Guo, professor of optics and physics, whose lab describes the structure in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The structure uses a groundbreaking technique the lab developed for using femtosecond bursts of lasers to “etch” the surfaces of metals with intricate micro- and nanoscale patterns that trap air and make the surfaces superhydrophobic, or water repellent.

The researchers found, however, that after being immersed in water for long periods of time, the surfaces may start to lose their hydrophobic properties.

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Enter the spiders and fire ants, which can survive long periods under or on the surface of water. How? By trapping air in an enclosed area. Argyroneta aquatic spiders, for example, create an underwater dome-shaped web—a so-called diving bell— that they fill with air carried from the surface between their super-hydrophobic legs and abdomens. Similarly, fire ants can form a raft by trapping air among their superhydrophobic bodies.

Superhydrophobic metallic structure floats on the water surface in the Guo lab.

University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

“That was a very interesting inspiration,” Guo says. As the researchers note in the paper: “The key insight is that multifaceted superhydrophobic (SH) surfaces can trap a large air volume, which points towards the possibility of using SH surfaces to create buoyant devices.”

Guo’s lab created a structure in which the treated surfaces on two parallel aluminum plates face inward, not outward, so they are enclosed and free from external wear and abrasion. The surfaces are separated by just the right distance to trap and hold enough air to keep the structure floating—in essence creating a waterproof compartment.

Superhydrophobic metallic structure is weighed down to keep it submerged in water in the Guo lab. Even after two months, it will bounce back to the surface.

Credit; University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Even after being forced to submerge for two months, the structures immediately bounced back to the surface after the load was released, Guo says. The structures also retained this ability even after being punctured multiple times, because air remains trapped in remaining parts of the compartment or adjoining structures.

Though the team used aluminum for this project, the “etching process “could be used for literally any metals, or other materials,” Guo says.

Experimental setup used to determine just the right distance between the treated plates to trap and hold enough air to keep the structure floating.

Credit; University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

When the Guo lab first demonstrated the etching technique, it took an hour to pattern a one-inch-by-one-inch area of surface. Now, by using lasers seven times as powerful, and faster scanning, the lab has speeded up the process, making it more feasible for scaling up for commercial applications.

Coauthors include lead author Zhibing Zhan, Mohamed ElKabbash, Jihua Zhang, and Subhash Singh, all PhD candidates or postdoctoral fellows in Guo’s lab, and Jinluo Cheng, associate professor at the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics in China.

The superhydrophobic structure remains afloat even after significant structural damage—punctured with six 3-millimeter diameter holes and one 6-millimeter hole.
a metallic disc punctured with multiple holes.

Credit: University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Contacts and sources:
Bob Marcotte
University of Rochester





Source: http://www.ineffableisland.com/2019/11/metal-that-refuses-to-sink-inspired-by.html
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Total 5 comments
  • Mike

    Why Read beforeitsnews?

    Folks it’s “Impossible to find Real News on TV & Radio that is Totally Saturated with Outright Lies, Deception, and Propaganda.”

    Before It’s News® is a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.

    Anyone can join.
    Anyone can contribute.
    Anyone can become informed about their world.

    “United We Stand” Click Here To Create Your Personal Citizen Journalist Account Today, Be Sure To Invite Your Friends.

    /prophecy/2019/11/why-read-before-its-news-reporters-expose-u-s-world-global-news-stories-the-main-stream-media-refuses-to-report-2508670.html

  • DJ Dog

    Spriders? Proofread Alton proofread!

    • Rockledge

      No , man. Spriders. You know……. those spiders that have free government issue bus passes.

  • Rockledge

    Cars that when women drivers drive into lakes and ponds because their feet get confused they don’t end up being a local urban legend.

  • Rockledge

    I crack me up.
    Something just occurred to me.
    Imagine sneaking into your buddies back yard and snatching the anchor from his boat.
    Making a cast of it, making a new anchor with some of the bug stuff, painting it like his original anchor and………………..

    I think you see where this is going.

    You would have to want to know when his next fishing expedition was intended to be so you could be on shore with binoculars.

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