Technology 2 min read

New Metallic Structure Could Help Create Unsinkable Ships

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Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a new superhydrophobic metallic structure. But, they had to draw inspiration from spiders and fire ants.

Spiders and fire ants can survive for an extended period under or on water surfaces. To achieve this impossible feat, the tiny creatures usually trap air in an enclosed area.

For example, the Argyroneta aquatic spiders create a dome-shaped underwater web filled with air. Similarly, fire ants generate a type of raft using the trapped air in their superhydrophobic bodies.

In a statement to the press, professor of optics and physics at the university, Chunlei Guo said:

“That was a very interesting inspiration. The key insight is that multifaceted superhydrophobic (SH) surfaces can trap a large air volume, which points towards the possibility of using SH surfaces to create buoyant devices.”

Inspired by nature, the Rochester team decided to create a similar water-repellant metallic structure.

Inventing a Superhydrophobic Metallic Structure

To create the hydrophobic structure, the researchers had first to treat the aluminum metals surface. It involves etching some complex micro- and nanoscale patterns that trap air on the surface.

Next, the Rochester team created a structure in which the treated surfaces of two parallel aluminum plates faced inwards. Thay way, the enclosed metal plates were also free from external abrasions.

Besides, the distance between each surface was just enough to trap and hold enough air to keep the structure afloat. It was the perfect waterproof compartment.

In a test, the researchers forcefully submerged the metallic structure for two months. However, it immediately bounced back to the surface after the load was released.

Also, Guo points out various compartments, and the adjoining structure contains trapped air. As a result, the structure still refused to sink after being punctured multiple times.

As may have guessed, the structure offers various exciting applications. We could have unsinkable ships and wearable floatation devices.

According to Guo, the metallic structure could even help invent monitoring devices that can survive for years in the ocean.

Read More: Metallic Wood: The Supermaterial Revolutionizing Manufacturing

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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