MIT reinvents glass to be non-fogging, self-cleaning, glare-free

There isn't anything that can't be made better with a generous helping of science, and researchers at MIT have applied their giant brains and equally giant thesauruses to create a new sort of glass that's robustly super-hydrophobic and has omnidirectional broadband super-transmissivity. Clearly, this is the glass of the future.

All them's fancy words is just a way of saying that this new glass doesn't reflect any light and that water really, really doesn't like it. Both of these properties come courtesy of forests of nanocones that have been painstakingly etched into the glass: this patterned texture traps angled light to cancel out glare while simultaneously causing water droplets to bounce off like little rubber balls. A side effect of this "super hydrophobia" is that dirt and dust have a hard time sticking to the glass as well, so that when you get the glass wet, the water cleanly washes away any contaminants.

Despite being coated with all of these fragile little nanocones, the MIT glass is apparently rugged enough to stand up to daily use and abuse in outdoor environments. It could certainly get some work done as the windshield on your car (glare-free and built-in anti-fog), or as the surface of a solar panel that's up to 50% more efficient when not pointed directly at the sun. What you really want to hear is that it could end up fronting your TV and smartphone as well, and MIT says that's a definite possibility.

The only hurdle now is to figure out a good (i.e. fast and cheap) way of etching nanocones in large sheets glass. MIT's prototype uses a multi-step photo etching process, but it may be possible to just fabricate a set of rollers with a texture of nanopits, which when rolled over sheets of molten glass would stamp out endless rows of nanocones with essentially zero effort. Even at that point, more testing needs to be done to figure out how well the structure of the glass holds up to real world applications, but as you can see from the video below, this stuff looks very, very promising.

Paper, via MIT

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