How would you like a self-washing car or a ketchup bottle whose contents flow freely?
Researchers at General Electric have come up with a way to process a common polymer so that it repels fluid so effectively that even honey rolls right off it. The resulting property is called superhydrophobicity. While the property has long been achieved in expensive materials, GE’s feat was to make it available in a common polycarbonate, Lexan.
The discovery could allow everything from new, easy-to-clean building materials to cheap diagnostic devices with plastic microfluidic channels. In designing the material, GE took inspiration from the leaves of the lotus plant, whose surface cells are five to ten micro-meters wide and topped by tiny wax crystals that are tens of nanometers wide. On a lotus leaf, water beads look like almost perfect spheres.
GE mimicked this pattern on Lexan by “roughening” its surface in a similar way. Tao Deng, a materials scientist at GE, is tight lipped about the process but says it uses a “chemical treatment of the surface.” GE estimates it will take at least five years to commercialize the technology, once all manufacturing issues are resolved.
The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus
The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.
Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging
The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.
Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI
One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.
The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images
Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.