ROCHESTER, N.Y., Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Rochester have figured out a way to make metals hydrophobic after they've been treated with lasers.
Scientists found the metals subjected to repeated laser blasts developed surface patterns that more effectively repel water. A closer look showed that metals treated with lasers featured micro- and nanoscale structures, which caused water to bead more effectively and not become stuck.
"The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off. Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface," Chunlei Guo, a professor of optics at Rochester, explained in a recent news release.
As well as being hydrophobic, the laser-treated surfaces are also highly heat and light absorbent -- a combination researchers say could be useful in the creation of rust-free solar panels that capture the sun's energy and don't have to be cleaned as often.
The ability to avoid rust is the most obvious benefit of water-repellent metals, but they could also be useful for applications where ice is a no-no.
"Some potential applications for anti-icing surfaces include protection of aerofoils, power transmission lines, pipes of air conditioners and refrigerators, and radar or telecommunication antennas," the researchers wrote about their findings.
Guo and his colleagues have previously created surface materials that are hydrophilic -- able to absorb water extremely quickly and efficiently.
The new hydrophobic research was detailed this week in the Journal of Applied Physics.