Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Millions of Tiny Hairs Might Replace Your Windshield Wipers

August 21, 2014
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Millions of Tiny Hairs Might Replace Your Windshield Wipers
Basheer Tome/Flickr Creative Commons
A new advancement by MIT scientists uses tiny hairs to revolutionize the way glass behaves.

Do your wipers ever seem two swipes behind the storm, leaving you wishing that the rain never even made it to your windshield in the first place? Soon enough, it never will, thanks to an amazing innovation that has the potential to revolutionize glass.

Sounds crazy? Not to a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), whose new technology can control the behavior of glass.

Here’s how it works:

The engineers have created an elastic material that’s covered with tiny hairs that are about one quarter of the width of human hair. Introduce a magnetic pull and these fibers sway accordingly. Coat a windshield (or a window) with this hairy material, and water can be, in effect, redirected off of the glass.

The hair-like structures are most similar, and in fact inspired by, cilia — the tiny hairs in our noses that filter air.

The technology goes far beyond its inspiration, though, according to City Lab. It can even stop a water dead in its tracks on a vertical surface.

MIT’s latest advancement doesn’t just stop with liquids, though. It can also redirect sunlight, which could completely change the nature of windows. Not only can the hairs be manipulated to lighten or darken the glass gradually, they can also completely shut out light. Window shades and blinds may soon be a thing of the past.

“[The technology] could filter how much solar radiation you want coming in, and also shed raindrops. This is an opportunity for the future,”  MIT graduate student Yangying Zhu told MIT News.

If this innovation takes off, everyday life will be improved significantly. Beyond increased convenience, it can also improve safety, especially on the road. By wicking away water and reducing glare, everything from commutes to road trips will undoubtedly become much safer.

[ph]

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