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June 28th, 2007
Aircraft that won't accumulate ice while awaiting winter takeoff. Engine parts with self-cleaning capabilities to boost efficiency. Even automobiles or toilet bowls that require little to no washing. All could be commonplace someday if ongoing research proves successful into "superhydrophobic" - or extremely water-repellent - coatings that are durable enough for metal and ceramics. The idea is that moisture will simply bead up and roll off, picking up dirt particles along the way.
The opportunities are "pretty incredible," said Margaret L. Blohm, who manages the nanotechnology program at the General Electric Co. research arm.
GE's coatings, tentatively expected to be ready for commercialization in five years or so, will probably first target the energy and aviation industries, Blohm said. Other scientists engaged in similar research believe consumer-oriented uses - think self-cleaning cars - aren't too far off, either.
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