Nature’s Raincoats was part of the Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society in 2009 that took place from Tuesday 30th June 2009 to Saturday 4th July 2009 at The Royal Society in London. The exhibit was one of 21 selected from 103 proposals on the basis of scientific quality and novelty, and attractiveness in promoting science to the general public, post-16 students, policy makers, and the press. The exhibit was based on research at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Oxford on bio-inspired super water-repellent surfaces, and was presented as a collaborative public understanding of science exhibition. (Note that some of the staff who were at Nottingham Trent University are now at the University of Edinburgh.)

The exhibit provided a glimpse into the natural world of super water repellency. It gave a feel for the droplet shedding and self-cleaning capability of smart surfaces. It also provided a peek at future technological possibilities.

A hands-on, interactive exhibit, the stand was divided into several zones. The sections below give a flavour of the activities, technologies and applications showcased in the exhibition.

Superhydrophobic plant ‘forest’ & wet area

This area of the exhibit contained a range of superhydrophic plants. You can read about many of them in the Bioinspiration – Adaptation of plants to water section of this website.

The ‘forest’ in situ

Activities included dripping water onto various plants and onto cards with a hydrophobic coating:

Other activities involved dipping a superhydrophobic surface in a mud bath to show it comes out clean, and using ‘magic sand‘, which is sand that has been covered in a hydrophobic coating.

Animal bioinspiration & technology

Super liquid-repellent and self-cleaning surfaces have many potential applications. These include the dirt repelling StoCoat™ Lotusan® exterior building paint, hydrophobic concrete designed to reduce rusting of the reinforcing bars, self-cleaning clothes that resist wine stains, water-repellant swimwear, mPhase Technologies long lasting reserve batteries, Gore-Tex® fabric in breathable clothing, solar panel and radar dome coatings to prevent build-up of scattering droplets, as lens coatings in high tech optics (e.g. Zeiss LotuTec®) or even as the basis for a Harry Potter Water Maze game. Many more potential applications are under development by companies across the world.

Fact Sheet

A fact sheet was produced to accompany the exhibit.


Video by Brady Haran for Nottingham Science City test-tube project

Photographic Competition

We ran a photographic competition for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition to find who could take the best, most imaginative photograph showing the interaction of water with natural or man-made surfaces. Many interesting photographs were submitted. The entries were judged by award winning photographer James Stenson.

Exhibition Gallery