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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Waterproof World

A universal liquid-repeller makes anything dunk-proof

Wet Sneaker: Photo by Satoshi

Today you can buy a rubber boot or a cellphone with rubber seals to keep water out. But a new treatment called Ion Mask promises to make any gadget or clothing item waterproof and stainproof without changing its appearance.


The process uses a gas, called a fluorocarbon monomer, that’s similar to ingredients in Scotchgard and Gore-Tex. Zapping the gas with radio waves excites electrons in its molecules, making them more reactive and able to bond to almost anything. The resulting waterproof layer is too thin to affect a material’s breathability or disrupt the flow of electricity to, say, a USB port.


Hi-Tec’s Altitude Ultra boot is the first product with the coating. But waterproofing a leather boot is easy. So we asked P2i, the company behind Ion Mask, to send us treated samples of a mesh-fabric sneaker that we doused with water [above] and cotton fabric that we splattered with wine [below]. No treated electronic products were available at the time; but P2i expects small gadgets such as earbuds to appear later this year.


Ion Mask worked as promised. A generous splash of water didn’t penetrate the sneaker, and red wine left no stain on the fabric.

Ion and Wine: In our tests, spilled wine beaded up on cotton cloth treated with Ion Mask and didn't leave a mark: Photo by Satoshi