Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Business Impact

Super Plastic

GE’s new water-sheding coating could lead to self-washing cars.

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.

This story is part of our May/June 2006 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

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.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to All Access Digital.
  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.