On some Design News message boards, we've discussed how great it would be if consumer electronics like smartphones and tablets were rougher and tougher. What if you could actually drop one into the sink by accident, or into your plate of spaghetti sauce, and no harm would be done?
A nanoscale coating that's now being applied to some smartphones will let you do that (though we don't recommend it). Aridion, developed by P2i, is used by Motorola on its RAZR and XOOM phones, and by Alcatel on its One Touch phones. About 30nm thick, or 1,000 times as thin as a human hair, the hydrophobic polymer coating is applied to completed products at the end of the manufacturing process. It coats exterior surfaces, ports, and even interior components, protecting them against liquids and stains, according to a P2i video, which you can watch below.
The coating, based on perfluorinated carbon compounds, is applied via a plasma-enhanced vapor deposition process that lays it down on all of the device's internal and external surfaces. The process takes place under low pressure in a vacuum chamber at room temperature.
The vaporized polymer bonds at the molecular level to materials, reducing corrosion and water damage. The polymer layer reduces surface energy, so instead of being attracted and spreading out on the device's surface, water and other liquids bead up and roll off.
UK-based P2i has developed a waterproof nano-coating that protects smartphones such as the Alcatel One Touch, and Motorola's RAZR and XOOM. We think the company should develop the technology for consumers who want to apply it to the devices they already own. (Source: P2i)
According to P2i, Aridion does not affect conductivity or the functioning of components, and is so thin that it doesn't change the product's look and feel. Since the coating becomes an inseparable part of the material it bonds to, it is as durable as the materials it protects. No solvents are used in the application process, which consumes only tiny amounts of the protective monomer.
The first commercial application for electronics was coating hearing aids. The company says the coating can be applied to a wide variety of materials, including fabrics, polymers, metals, ceramics, glass, leather, and paper, as well as objects made of multiple materials, such as smartphones and tablets.
Another version of the coating, ion-mask, is used on shoes and clothing. The technology was originally developed during UK defense research projects. In that research, the aim was to protect soldiers' clothing from chemical weapons.
The videos on the company's website showing liquid rolling off are pretty impressive. I think P2i should try to figure out how to apply this coating to existing electronic devices, presumably while they're still new. Places like Kinkos could buy one of the chambers and offer a retrofitting service for electronics that haven't already been protected.
Battar, according to your statement, Asbestos is perfectly safe.
Nano materials do amazing things BECAUSE of their odd (non-intuitive) behavior, so any statement that they are safe is pure, unsubstantiated speculation. They are already finding bad health effects and environmental concerns for nano materials and the waste produced in their manufacturing. Perhaps not another "Love Canal", but who knows?
Perhaps an interesting related side question is: If they are hydrophobic, how do they react to fats and oils (as contained in human skin)?
I looked at the company site. What I could find are mainly marketing videos; very nicely done but short on details. There are lots of questions I would have if I were a company considering doing this to my products. First, I would want to understand the plasma and what the risks of damaging electronics are. Seems like the potential to either directly create a voltage potential or cause static charge buildup would be a worry. I would also want to know about the conductivity question--seems too good to be true that you could post-coat a gold plated contact and not change the contact resistance.
In my experience (I also have family who routinely drops phones in the toilet or bathtup, or lets them soak in 100% humidity in the bathroom until they fritz out) immersion is the real consumer issue, or condensation inside. Once wet, unless you really dry it out, the continuous flow of current eventually corrodes something and the device fails. To prove this process avoids that would require validation testing beyond what is shown in the video.
If I were to see test results presented in a more professinal way, I would be more convinced, but as an engineer I have to remain skeptical so far.
There are some devices that are sold specifically as more rugged, such as the Motorola Defy phones or Panasonic Toughbook. They sometimes have IP ratings for dust and moisture resisitance. Typically, for smartphones, the more rugged ones seem to be based on slightly older technology, so you get to choose if you want the latest and greatest, or the most rugged, but not both.
We already have conformal coatings. I can't imagine this coating will make much difference beyond the current state. The weak spot of the devices, in terms of immersion, is the seals around the buttons and the battery cover. These are locations that the consumer will eventually wear away any coating. And depending on how deep the device goes in the water, the seals won't hold anyway.
@3drob: Do NOT put your wet phone into alcohol. It can separate the layers of the LCD screen! Rinsing in distilled water and drying out slowly is still the best method.
@ic78man08: The Bheestie bags are effective, but too expensive for me. Putting the device in (uncooked) rice may take a little longer, but still works fine. Or, if you want a free homemade Bheestie bag, keep all of your silica gel packets (do not eat!), dry them in a low oven, and store them in a sealed plastic bag, ready for that inevitibable dunking.
@franklin: Somewhere I have a document from Tektronix on the correct way to hose off the inside of an oscilloscope. I have never had the guts to try it out on my 1960's scope, however!
Chuck, good question. But how do you define "immersion"? Spilling a cup of coffee on the phone? Dropping it into a sink of dishwater or a toilet? Or just leaving it out in the rain on a table? And for how long? I didn't find any specific descriptions of protection against immersion on the website, but a) all the examples (and Motorola's SplashGuard ads, as well as its name) imply that continual non-immersive exposure to liquid--such as sweat on your hearing aid or splashes of rain on your phone--don't affect protected devices, and b) the coating is said to molecularly bond so it lasts as long as the device does. The exact nature of that molecular bond probably determines the answer.
If perflourinated carbons are hydrophopic, how will they attach themselves to the cells in you body? Or to put it more simply, if nothing sticks to teflon (another perflourinated compound), how will it stick to you, inside or out? The answer is, health issues arise when the compound breaks down at excessive temperature, which can happen in a frying pan but not in a cellphone.
in the sixties (over 60 years ago) we used to clean tektronix scopes by hosing the inside with water. it did not harm the scope. I have dropped a phone in the toilet 10 years ago. i rinsed it in running water and shook it to dry. didn't seem to harm it.
I'd like to see somthing like this on car windows. If it would survive long enough, it would be a huge improvment to visibility in the rain. I currently use RainX, but it needs to be reapplied about once a month.
Ann, recently while attending a telecom conference, happened to visit some of the Chinese exhibition stalls. In one of the stall Huawei had kept some Smartphone in a transparent pot having water. They use to call to these mobiles and explain about how it works under the water. I mean about water proofing and how safe the device is in water. They have a plan to introduce the same to market within few months.
This already exists. LiquiPel does it and they are in the process of opening mall kiosks. This would not necessarily be prohibitively expensive if it is priced as an add-on with a reduction in the cost of insurance or a reduced deductible.
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