Smartphones are built to withstand a lot of damage these days.
Last year, smartphone maker, HTC (Taiwan: 2498.TW), demonstrated how it put the Nexus One through the ringer before it was released. Tests included dropping it repeatedly from multiple angles, forcing the phone to tumble around in a metal box and seeing how far the device can bend.
Some smartphones even have displays made of Corning’s (NYSE: GLW) scratchproof Gorilla Glass.
Despite these efforts, though, it only takes a splash of water to trigger a wave of panic in the bravest owner.
But new technology from Pennsylvania-based steel manufacturer, Ross Technology, should help us erase that fear for good…
Kiss Water Damage Goodbye
For nearly 50 years, Ross Technology has produced steel products such as security doors and storage racks for warehouses.
But it wasn’t until 2008 that the company established a nanotechnology division. You see, this branch was tasked with developing a system that would keep its products from corroding.
The result: A silicon-based nanoparticle spray, called NeverWet.
And it does exactly what the name suggests. It works by increasing a material’s contact angle – the angle formed between the material’s surface and a drop of water.
In short, a low contact angle attracts water, meaning the liquid spreads out once it hits the surface. On the other hand, a bigger contact angle repels water, forcing it to slide off easily. Just like raindrops hitting your windshield would after you douse it with Rain-X.
Any surface with a contact angle between 90 and 180 degrees is considered “hydrophobic.”
Car wax, for instance, gives your vehicle a contact angle of 90 degrees. Teflon’s contact angle is 95 degrees. And Scotchgard gives your furniture a contact angle of 116 degrees.
But NeverWet blasts a material’s contact angle up to 165 degrees!
So it solved the company’s corrosion problems, since “water never comes in contact with the surface long enough” to cause damage, according to Ross’ Director of Research and Development.
But as it turns out, preventing corrosion was just the beginning.
NeverWet Keeps a Slew of Materials… Always Dry
You see, after the company developed the product for steel, it customized NeverWet’s formula to work on other surfaces like glass, rubber, ceramics and fabrics.
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And it doesn’t just repel water. Substances like oil, blood, wine, mud and chocolate don’t stand a chance, either.
So NeverWet has the ability to go way beyond industrial applications.
For instance, the video below shows how it can make a dress shirt shed water like a raincoat and shoes repel chocolate syrup. Check it out:
Talk about massive potential. This technology could serve all kinds of innovative uses.
Spraying power lines with NeverWet would keep ice from building up during the winter. Or coating touchscreens would mean no more annoying fingerprints to wipe off every day.
And of course, it can keep smartphones safe and dry, too. To prove it, Ross Nanotechnology President, Andy Jones, dunked his iPhone underwater for 30 minutes and the device didn’t break a sweat!
Currently, Ross has 13 patents pending and has licensed the technology to four companies. The spill-proof glass shown in the video is already available in new refrigerator models. And shoe manufacturers are also sniffing around for a potential deal.
With NeverWet’s ability to revolutionize multiple industries, though, you can bet many more licensing deals are on the way.
So at some point in the near future, dropping your smartphone in a toilet, fish tank, or even chocolate fondue will no longer set you back the cost of a new phone.