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Cellphones Technology

Nanocoating Waterproofs Any Gadget 314

Posted by samzenpus
from the ever-dry-socks dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Water has always been the bane of electronics, however American company Liquipel just announced that they have developed a way to completely waterproof any device against the elements. Using a revolutionary process, Liquipel applies a hydrophobic nanocoating to phones, computers, and other devices that completely waterproofs them and protects them against accidental exposure to liquids."
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Nanocoating Waterproofs Any Gadget

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:08PM (#38681820)

    What? Your TV is only 3D HDTV? It's not WATER PROOF?! Why not? Are you poor? Why haven't you bought one? How else do you plan to entertain under water?

  • they're such hydrophobes.
  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:13PM (#38681862) Journal

    At one point we’ve all done it – spilt a drink over a laptop, gotten our tablets soaked in the rain, or even dropped our phone in the toilet.

    I've never done any of those things with my expensive tools/toys. It baffles me how badly people treat expensive and hard to replace tools. It's not limited to technology either; a friend of mine has a collection of rusted saws, screwdrivers and other tools because he's too lazy to bring them in out of the rain after a big home improvement project. Pathetic.

    • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:31PM (#38682030) Journal
      I am a destroyer of keyboards. So I've learned simply to not buy expensive keyboards. Everything else, yeah, I try to treat gently, from my beloved Honda which is about to tick over 200K miles, to my late grandfather's violin 110 year old violin. Even my $80 mouse gets more care and attention and caution than my keyboard, though.

      My dilemma is this: If I get an expensive heavy duty mechanical keyboard, I will somehow managed to drop a gallon of paint on it no matter how careful I am. So I just use $20 el cheapo Microsoft Curve keyboards, which invariably wear out after a year because I hammer it so bad.
      • by EvanED (569694) <evaned&gmail,com> on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:44AM (#38682534)

        I've killed two separate MS Natural 4000s, one about 30 minutes after getting it. It's very rare that I'll spill, but man, it seems like just a little splash has a high probability of rendering it useless.

        Personally though, the extra comfort of a comfortable-to-use keyboard is worth an occasional fairly-expensive (at least for a grad student) replacement. I never understand people who spend like $1500 for an awesome gaming rig or something and then get a cheapass keyboard, which is one of the couple components you actually use. But I might just be overly sensitive or something; I do pay a lot of attention to arm ergonomics as fallout from wrist problems many years back.

        • by Glonoinha (587375) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:39AM (#38682800) Journal

          Get back to us when you kill an IBM Model M keyboard. It's like the Tonka Truck of keyboards. You hit someone with a Model M, they're going down.

          • by EvanED (569694) <evaned&gmail,com> on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:55AM (#38682878)

            You hit someone with a Model M, they're going down.

            Unfortunately that'll be me hitting you after I have to listen to you type for a couple hours. :-)

            (I'm well aware of the model M's reputation, but I don't find the better "button feel" to be anywhere near worth the noise, let alone the lack of a split keyboard or the Natural 4000's reverse tilt which I really really wish was more common. That alone makes typing far more comfortable; I don't understand why it's basically the only keyboard out there with that feature.)

          • by flonker (526111)

            I have killed an IBM Model M keyboard. One of the original PS/2 models. A friend of mine got drunk, passed out, and somehow managed to knock it on the floor, and then dropped a 50 pound 23" CRT on top of it. A couple of keys popped off and broke.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ryanrule (1657199)
      I can see dropping a phone in the toilet. Of course you must then recognize that every phone you see has been used while someone wiped their arse.
      • I thought phone screens are too small for porn.
        • by EdIII (1114411)

          You just squint your eyes. When there is a will there is a way.......

          It may have gone too far when you are standing up on a chair, leg over on the dresser, holding your phone up desperately trying to get signal in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere to look at Internet porn.

          Cirque Du Soleil had nothing on me that day.......

      • by dissy (172727)

        Oblg.: http://www.crazywebsite.com/Website-Clipart-Pictures-Videos/Funny-People/Girl-Laptop-Bathroom-1LG.jpg [crazywebsite.com]

        Perhaps she is chatting on IRC, the Internet Relay Crap
        Or maybe paying for an ebay order with PeePal
        That's one heck of a core dump

        Just imagine the poor guy who has fore play with her. The packet route goes from bathroom floor - laptop - desk - her lap - his face - him realizing what he really actually ate - back to bathroom floor.
        Isn't the round-trip of life beautiful?

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        The really terrible thing is having an executive hand you a dead phone, asking for you to fix it, only to answer that first obvious question with, "I dropped in the toilet".

    • They're called "accidents" Mr. Douchbag

    • or even dropped our phone in the toilet.

      Gotta talk while pissin.' Yes, I've seen that happen. Yank it out, pull the battery and sim, clean them with alcohol if handy, wait in anxiety while they dry.

      You wouldn't catch me leaving my TEK 2246 out in the rain, but my former boss who owned a construction company, left his portable corded Skilsaw rotary with a carbide rebar-cutting blade out in the rain. Man, that was one pissed-off corner-cutter.

    • by hldn (1085833)

      i recently spilt some water on my keyboard and the left ctrl key died. i took it apart and examined it closely, but i couldnt see where the problem was. i ended up having to use software (ctrl2cap) to switch the function of it with the capslock key. of course, now i have no capslock key :/

      anyway, shit happens. it'll happen to you too one day.

      • Hmm, so you are the guy that uses the capslock key for something?!
        • by omglolbah (731566)

          * One of our customers expects all text on drawings to be in all caps for clarity.
          * Variables have to be typed in all caps for historical reasons.. (all variables are that way already and the codebase is much too big to refactor efficiently.. mostly because there are no automatic tools available and the code is stored in binary files linked to an ancient database)

          Just two usage cases for the caps lock ;)

          • * Variables have to be typed in all caps for historical reasons..

            Whenever I use all caps for variables (or constants) I tend to have underscores in them and rarely use digits. WHAT IS WRONG WITH A FREAKING SHIFT LOCK!?!?!

            Whew. Sorry, but whoever thought a caps lock was an improvement over shift lock was an idiot.

    • Remind me to never be your friend. How do you live with your own mistakes, or don't you ever make any?

    • by Shoten (260439)

      I've had a douchebag in the seat next to me on a plane make a spastic grab for his drink while reaching over me...and my laptop. Not all exposure to water is defined by the owner of the damaged item being the one who is pathetic, and none of the times my electronics got wet had to do with my negligence. I've also been caught in a scirrocco in Italy while walking back home, knocked off the side of a dock by a person turning with an oar tucked stupidly under their armpit...the ways in which water and other

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The link is from a questionably "objective" source that has no real info on how (or if) it works. But by all means mail them your gadgets! They were nominated for an award you've never heard of!

    • by swalve (1980968) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:31PM (#38682036)
      I have to agree. If only because it seems impossible. How much of a gap can it bridge? Won't a coating break the buttons' electrical contacts? How does it protect the battery?
      • The interesting part is they took the battery cover off underwater.

        Now usually on most phones I've seen, the battery connects via bare copper. How can it still actually function, without allowing water to short circuit it?
        Ditto for headphone jack. Either it covers the connection or it lets water in.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Pure water is actually a reasonable insulator. You can generally immerse electronics in pure water, then dry it off and it will work, if it stopped working at all. I'll bet all their amazing immersion demos are being done with deionised water

          Water with ions in it, such as from salt or contamination, is conductive and will corrode. I'd like to see them dunk a "waterproofed" phone into seawater.

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          My guess is that the video used distilled water, which is highly resistive. Water only conducts if it contains impurities.

          For the actual product, I would expect them to apply the coating with the battery already in, and you simply can't take it out without needing to reapply the coating.

          • Or the copper contacts have small plastic lips/edges on the battery/phone contacts, so they're watertight enough when the battery is seated (held in with the battery tension).

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          I thought that too. I would suspect that it is thin enough that it doesn't prevent the flow of electrons between the copper contacts, but pushes the water away enough to prevent the electrons from flowing across them. Amazing yes, but it doesn't seem impossible.
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Does this coating prevent conduction, or is it merely a method to avoid the corrosion water causes? That's the real problem - shorts are bad, yes - but that's usually not what kills a gadget.

  • Old News. I've been playing acoustic and electric guitar with Elixir [elixirstrings.com] strings for almost a decade, with customer satisfaction. Any nerd considering learning guitar should also, as they are resistant to Chee-toe residue.

    Gripe: can you guys find a way to coat the upper B and E strings?
    • I've found them to start off great, but they deteriorate after a while and feel kinda yuck. I think bang for buck standard phosphor bronze is about as good.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:19PM (#38681900)
    why is my $15 Walgreens watch waterproof to a depth of 20 meters, but if I sneeze on my $400 Android / iPhone it's ruined and I voided the warranty?
    • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:37PM (#38682088)

      I think you'd have to do a little more than sneeze on it - but I am well aware of stories in the past where e.g. sporters who sweated a little (much) got told by the service center that the humidity indicators in their iPod (or similar) indicated the device got wet and thus the warranty was void.

      But just to address your specific example - your $15 Walgreens watch probably has little to no openings and whatever interface controls are there are very easy to make waterproof. Compare to the many slots and compartments on a typical smartphone which often are required to be easily user-accessible. You wouldn't want to have to unscrew the back of your smartphone every time you'd just want to recharge it (if it ran for 2 years on a few button cells like your watch, then that wouldn't be much of an issue).

      But, more importantly, your $15 Walgreens watch is $15. If they actually got a claim from somebody with valid proof that they only dove to 19.95m and not over 20.00m, sending out a new $15 Walgreens watch is a heck of a lot cheaper than going over that paperwork and trying to tell you that you must be mistaken.
      For $400+ devices, on the other hand, it's a lot cheaper to open it up, point at the humidity tags, and say "sucks to be you".

    • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:43PM (#38682134)

      why is my $15 Walgreens watch waterproof to a depth of 20 meters, but if I sneeze on my $400 Android / iPhone it's ruined and I voided the warranty?

      A couple of thoughts, here.

      1) How do the microphone, micro SD slot, speakers, and charging/data port on your watch work after you've taken it down to 20 meters?

      2) Has it ever occured to you that the makers and retailers of your $15 watch are simply banking (literally) on the fact that essentially nobody will every submit that cheap watch to 20 meters of water? And if someone does do so, and the watch inevitably fails, what percentage of that already tiny percentage are going to actually bother to pursue warranty service/replacement on something that costs less than a decent pizza? They could simply replace that costs-them-$3 watch every time all three people in that group take a shower, and they'll still make more money than they would have by not saying "Waterproof to 20 meters!" on the packaging and not having to service such claims.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      why is my $15 Walgreens watch waterproof to a depth of 20 meters, but if I sneeze on my $400 Android / iPhone it's ruined and I voided the warranty?

      Your $15 Walgreens watch has rubber seals on the backplate and around any buttons/knobs.
      Your $400 Android / iPhone doesn't. If it did, the phone would be a lot bulkier.

      Looking at their list of "approved devices" [liquipel.com], I'm wondering how the nanocoating interacts with user removable batteries.

    • Because no tech wants to touch it after you've sneezed on it.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Actually if you live in someplace moist, like Mississippi, you've probably already voided the warranty with the local ambient humidity.
  • by againsttheodds (2534156) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:20PM (#38681920)
    It is no doubt that nanocoatings are going mainstream what with the latest solar paint that can harness the sun http://www.infobarrel.com/Solar_Nanopaint_-_Paint_With_Quantum_Dot_Solar_Cells [infobarrel.com] and coatings for jets and other aircraft to provide excellent aerodynamic properties. Then you have nanocoatings for engines and http://againsttheodds.hubpages.com/hub/Nanodiamond-Lubricants-And-Lubrication-Particles [hubpages.com] and countless other applications on the horizon. It is an exciting time and there is still plenty of room at the bottom.
  • by Captain Sarcastic (109765) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:23PM (#38681948)

    ... are just the thing for rabid technophiles!

  • I went straight to Ziebart!

  • by ryanw (131814)

    My friend knows these guys and had his iPhone done. I didn't believe it, but it's legit.

  • I'm curious how this will react with the moisture in our skin as we tap away on said gadgets.
  • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:00AM (#38682258)

    How could you coat the interior of a microSD card slot that's covered with a loose-fitting cover and make it waterproof? If the nano-coating doesn't conduct electricity then any card you insert won't make contact with the contacts. If it does conduct, then it's useless as a waterproofing seal over electronics. The same would seem to hold true for any earphone plug or charging port, right?

    • by JakartaDean (834076) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:28AM (#38682434) Journal

      How could you coat the interior of a microSD card slot that's covered with a loose-fitting cover and make it waterproof? If the nano-coating doesn't conduct electricity then any card you insert won't make contact with the contacts. If it does conduct, then it's useless as a waterproofing seal over electronics. The same would seem to hold true for any earphone plug or charging port, right?

      I don't know how it works for sure, but I imagine its just surface tension. The coating doesn't physically close the slot, it coats the outside of the slot with a film that repels water. Water doesn't go into very small places at routine pressure -- the raindrop-size drops you encounter all the time are its least-energy state, the "natural" curvature of water drops. The coating keeps water far enough away so this curvature radius doesn't contact the inside of the slot.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:05AM (#38682646)
      Not only conductivity, but how does the coating hold up under the friction of plugging in the charger every day? If you peek at the metal contacts of a USB cable with a flashlight, I'll bet they have spots worn into them from being plugged in. I doubt any coating could survive that, and the parts which suffer the most wear are also the parts that need waterproofing the most.
  • Yea but do you have to recoat your phone after taking the back off and reseating or replacing the battery? I have to reseat my cell phone all the time because it gets so dang laggy, I'd hate to have to recoat my phone with this stuff every time.
    • by ryanw (131814)

      Maybe coat all your batteries independently and the device without the battery in .... that would solve that I would imagine. Good question.

  • There are many more liquids in the world than water. How does this coating stand up to something as corrosive as salt water or Coke?

    • by Guppy (12314)

      There are many more liquids in the world than water. How does this coating stand up to something as corrosive as salt water or Coke?

      Presumably well, hydrophobic coatings are apparently quite good at reducing corrosion. I'd be more interested to know how it stands up to something capable of wetting hydrophobic surfaces, like alcohol. Or with some fat content, like whole milk or soup.

  • not revolutionary (Score:5, Informative)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:22AM (#38682400)

    What I've read in the media of this process suggests that it's parylene. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parylene [wikipedia.org]

    If so, it's not revolutionary, but a good application of an old coating technology. When I get my iPhone 5, I'll probably send it to these guys for coating.

    • by Guppy (12314)

      What I've read in the media of this process suggests that it's parylene. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parylene [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

      Doesn't parylene turn yellowish under UV exposure though? Except for the fluropolymer version (which I suppose it could be).

      • Re:not revolutionary (Score:5, Informative)

        by Richard Kirk (535523) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:27AM (#38683702)

        I have done Paralyne coating back in the 1980's. It is a vapour deposited plastic. If you are putting down Paralyne 'C' (the chlorinated version - there was no fluorinated version back then as far as I knew) then it could give a tough plastic coating that could be 100 nm deep. This forms a thin coating over all surfaces including under electronic components on boards. I have even seen it creep between stacks of microscope slides that aren't quite flat. This coating was transparent. If you put down a thinker coating you could get interference colours, and if you kept going it would look milky - particularly with Paralyne 'N' (the unchlorinated version)..

        Paralyne was a standard 'tropicalization' process for electronics to be used in harsh environments. You tended to 'tropicalize' circuit boards with masking over the board edge connectors. As Paralyne was good at penetrating, you probably could not coat anything with a 2-way switch, or plugs. But things like earphones and displays would probably be fine.

        Yellowing? I never saw it go yellow. It would have to go amazingly yellow because the coat is so thin.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:20AM (#38682722)

    Prior to studying Computer Science in University, I went to college and studied Electronics Engineering. I worked for an industrial electronic design and manufacturing company for 3 years between one and the other. Most products went into the oilfield. Scada, wellhead controllers, remote sensing equipment, etc. When manufacturing circuit boards 50 at a time, they would put them into a commercial *DISHWASHER* to get all the water soluble solder flux off and wash the board clean. Because chips follow the original Texas Instruments Mach32 procurement process (as outlined by the US Air Force in the 1960's and 1970's), they are hermetically sealed, must past gross leak, and fine leak tests, thermal shock, high altitude testing, centrifuge tests, and other tests, water won't 'leak' into the chips and wreck them. When power is applied, damage can happen. When there is no current, electronics are inert. To keep things 'dry' under power, silicone spray can keep the rest of the electronics from creating short circuits (due to conduction through water, etc.). This was also important in highly corrosive environments (hello petrochemical plant). They also used Hall-effect keyboards and switches to eliminate any chance of an electric arc in hazardous environments (when a seal fails in a methane/ethane/propane plant and you need to press a button to shut off a pump to stop the leak, and pressing the switch blows up the plant you have failed). As stated previously, you can enjoy this new 'wonder technology', or you can get a can of silicone spray. Have fun!

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      When there is no current, electronics are inert.

      Galvanic corrosion can occur whenever two dissimilar metals meet and are provided with an electrolyte, so you might want to be careful about that. I wouldn't get anything with a copper heat sink wet, for example.

  • Boats... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Coldeagle (624205) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:23AM (#38682736)
    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the coating was applied to a boat. Would the boat be fouling proof? Also, would it go even faster because it's coated in a hydrophobic substance? Hmmmm...The geek in me wants to get a toy boat, test its performance, then have them coat it then test it again and see if the performance improves by a measurable amount.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:51AM (#38682854) Homepage

    Their site reads:

    If my electronic is accidentally exposed to water after being Liquipelled what do I do?

    Do not panic! Please follow the aftercare instructions such as drying the device as much as possible, powering down the unit (if it is not an emergency and you do not need to make a call), removing the battery and battery cover if possible and not restarting until it has dried. Please note not to charge your device for 24 hours until it has dried out.

    Most electronics will survive water contact if dried out. After all, one of the last steps in PC board manufacture is a pass through a dishwasher-like device. This "nanocoating" starts to sound like a placebo.

    It's lame that phones have connector holes in them at all. With inductive charging, Bluetooth headphones, and WiFi or cellular for everything else, why should there be connectors at all. I'm surprised that Steve Jobs didn't eliminate holes years ago on uglyness grounds.

    There are at least three phones on the market designed to survive immersion in water. It's not rocket science.

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