ScienceDaily reports that University of Florida engineers have made a flat surface that is so hydrophobic that it basically won't get wet. The water-repellent surface was formed by arranging microscopic plastic fibers such that they mimic the the hairs of spiders. The hairs of water spiders are both long and short, with varying degrees of curvature, and arranged chaotically over the spider's body, enabling the spider to trap air bubbles so that it can breathe underwater.
The surface created by the researchers is so water repellent that photographs of water droplets on the surface show that the water droplets retains their spherical shape, even when moving across the surface. Although the surface is made of plastic, it is the structure of the surface that repels water, not its composition, so a similar surface could be made using other materials. Potentially applications for the hydrophobic surface could include self-cleaning windows, low-friction boat hulls, and water-repellent food packaging. The paper describing the results appears in this month's issue of the journal Langmuir.