A close look at the leaves of plants shows that many are covered by waxy, microscopic bumps, or mats of hair. This makes the leaves superhydrophobic. A drop of rain retains an almost spherical shape and runs off easily so the leaf stays dry. Tiny ratchets on butterfly wings direct raindrops away from the insect’s body, whether the wing is tilted up or down, and water striders dance on superhydrophobic feet. We are using mathematics, computer simulations and experiments to understand nature’s technology and to design man-made superhydrophobic surfaces, opening up possibilities for applications from low friction micro channels to self-drying fabrics.
Nature’s Raincoats is a public engagement collaboration between researchers at the University of Edinburgh, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, Nottingham Trent University, and the University of Oxford.
The collaboration originated as an exhibit for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2009, and has been seen at many exhibitions and public events subsequently.
Heading image & suspended spider courtesy Kenneth King.
Leidenfrost engine: Jonathan Sanderson.