Water droplets + aerogel powder = superhydrophobic fun

This 2010 video demonstrates the wonderful and intriguing behavior exhibited by water when it is dripped on paper that is coated with "superhydrophobic" aerogel powder. The water forms tiny marbles and races around like it's on a griddle. This looks like it would be a lot of fun to try in person, possibly with some small people in attendance.

Water droplets on a superhydrophobic surface (via Geekologie)



  1. beautiful. it could be the basis for some very interesting art/photo/motion graphics projects.

  2. Where can one purchase hydrophobic aerogel powder in hobbyist quantities? The closest I was able to find was 1mm granules at http://www.buyaerogel.com/.

      1. Yipes. My mom told me once about how her mom would let her play with it, but only out on the concrete driveway. Still, she used to push and smoosh it with her fingers, even though she had been told not to. 

        1. Reminds me the fun we had with mercury when in the polarography lab class! Nothing feels like pouring metal from hand to hand. The reprimand from the teacher was worth it.

  3. Not reading the headline the pyromaniac in me saw the match and liquid and thought kablammo!!!

  4. Is the aerogel coating transparent and tough?  Would be great for car windshields.

  5. When I was a  kid I noticed a similar effect in our shower; where the water dripped down from the soap dish it coated an area with a hydrophobic surface.
    After seeing this I just confirmed my assumption at the time that it had sth. to do with the calcium (and magnesium) in our hard water and the soap.
    As I just learned, these minerals and some soap ingredients react and the result is hydrophobic “soap scum” or “lime soap”.
    And as I further found out, this effect is i.a. traditionally used in Morocco for nearly waterproof plasters;
    Quite interesting.

  6. Wonder if you managed to got a thin sheet of water over this stuff, if  little quantum vortices would start to form like when they sprinkle hydrogen ice over superfluid helium.

  7. I work for a company (www.aerolenz.com) that makes insulation products for skylights using translucent, hydrophobic aerogel. We do this trick at trade shows. Haven’t ever gotten a finger dusty enough to do the glass of water trick linked above, but now I have to try.

  8. There were maze games in the seventies that worked with a drop of water rolling around in a plastic shell.  The water drop rode on some hydrophobic coating in the maze.  (Similar to earlier mercury mazes, but significantly less toxic.)  There was a small hole in the covering of the maze where you would drop in the water.

    My brother had one, and I was fascinated by it.  Can’t remember the name of them, and Google is not being particularly helpful tonight.  May have been “Slicksilver”, according to one forum post I saw, but I can’t find any more information.

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