Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Watch for MIT Swimming to Make Great Strides This Year

When the big brains at MIT swimming realized that strapping their swimmers to a big fat rocket wasn't going to help their relay qualify for nationals, they decided to look into upgrading their slipperiness.

Remember that Neverwet stuff?  You know, the superhydrophobic spray that Craig Lord wrote about that could take swimsuit technology to a whole new level by repelling water like Rain-X in full roid rage?

Well...  MIT just developed the next level of superhydrophobia.  Check out this excerpt from an article at extremetech.com:

Hydrophobic, as you have probably guessed, literally means “water fear.” There are hydrophobic substances that resolutely refuse to mix with water (such as oils and fats), and hydrophobic materials and coatings that prevent water from pooling on its surface. In scientific terms, hybrophobicity is caused by surfaces that disrupt the hydrogen bonding in water. So as to minimize the disruption to its molecular makeup, the water droplet pushes itself away from the surface to minimize its contact area, becoming a very tight droplet...

There are two ways to create a hydrophobic material: You either coat it with some kind of wax (oil, grease, or some other special, hydrophobic substance); or you use nanoengineering to create a special, nanopatterned textured surface. These nanopatterns, which are hydrophobic, take the form of little bumps or posts that are around 10 micrometers (10 micron, 10,000 nanometers) across. This kind of hydrophobic material is fairly well understood. The MIT breakthrough being discussed today starts with a nanopatterned hydrophobic material — and then coats it in a very fine layer of lubricant, massively increasing its hydrophobicity.

It turns out that the small gaps between the bumps/posts are capable of exerting just enough capillary force to hold an oil lubricant in place. The scientists simply had to dunk the nanopatterned material into a vat of lubricant, pull it out, and the lubricant remains fixed in the material. The nanopattern, plus the lubricant, results in a material that is 10,000 times more hybrophobic than the non-lubricated version. The pits are so small that it takes just half a teaspoon of lubricant to cover a square yard (0.8sqm) of the material. “Drops can glide on the surface,” Kripa Varanasi, the lead researcher, says. “These are just crazy velocities.” 

If you read the article you will realize that this could be a major find in how it will effect our energy industry.  I like to think it is not really something that will make a difference to the swimming community unless someone like Tony Stark decides he wants to be better than Phelps at being Phelps, but really, I am sure that there are people out there now with plans to be the first to make use of nanotech in the racing pool.

Honestly, I think that we need to give MIT's swimmers full license to play with this tech...  I mean, really, wouldn't you love to have that as a project in one of your classes?  I want to know:  what does it really do in regard to moving through water?; is it harmful?; how can we detect if someone is trying to cheat by using it?; would we want it on some parts of the body and not others?

I am pretty sure my breaststroke pull out would be pretty freakin amazing if I got the 10,000 times superhydrophobia effect.  That is of course, if I don't explode when I hit the water.  Knowing me and how good I am with technology, I would probably get this stuff on the bottom of my feet and spend a half hour just trying to get from the locker room to the blocks without sliding dangerously all across the wet pool deck.    That could make a swim meet real interesting real quick, right?

Maybe this is how we would spot the cheaters.


1 comment:

  1. The more I read about this stuff, the more I want to play with it in the pool. What do you say if we get ourselves a bottle of this stuff, go to the pool with your old full body FSI and become the next tony starks of swimming? This weekend could be a good weekend to test it... I am glideman!!