Research

Controlling Droplet Bounce

Water repellent, or hydrophobic, surfaces are common in nature, including lotus leaves, many insects, and even some geckos. These hydrophobic surfaces typically gain their water-repelling ability from extremely tiny nanoscale structures in the form of tiny hairs or specially textured surfaces. But, while the nanoscale structures impart superhydrophobicity, researchers have found that larger macroscale structures can improve water-repellent characteristics by reducing a drop’s time of contact with the surface. A smaller contact time means less chance of contamination on self-cleaning surfaces. It’s also helpful in preventing water from freezing on contact to cold surfaces – valuable, for example, in protecting airplane wings’ leading edges from icing over. This combination of nanoscale and macroscale, water-repelling structures can be found in nature, too, such as on the wings of butterflies, which must quickly shed water in order to fly. (Image credits: K. Hounsell et al.A. Gauthier et al., source video)

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