Researchers at the University of Rochester have created a metal surface so hydrophobic that water bounces off it as if repelled by a rubbery force field, reports Time. The incredible breakthrough could lead to everything from better non-stick kitchenware to waterproof electronics.

To get an idea of just how water-repellent this metal is, you may have to see it to believe it. Luckily, the University of Rochester researchers have provided a demonstration:

Water dropped over the metal appears like candy-dispenser bouncy balls as it richochets off. It's the most water-repellent metallic surface yet created, and unlike the surfaces of the non-stick pans you might use at home, these new surfaces are chemical free.

To create the effect, researchers used lasers to etch nanoscale structures into the metal surface that repel the water. Because they are etched in at such a microscopic level, they do not rub off, meaning that metals etched with these structures never lose their water-resistance. 

The number of applications for such a technology are mind-boggling. Clearly, kitchenware will never be the same, and without the potential toxicity of conventional non-stick surfaces. Electronic devices can also be made more waterproof than ever before, and touchscreens could be made that resist finger grease and other similar causes of smudges. Also, airplanes etched in these nanostructures could potentially avoid the dangers of water freezing on the wings. More efficient water recollection systems could even be designed for use in underdeveloped countries. 

The possibilities are numerous. Though perhaps it's simply enough to be dazzled by displays of water bouncing around like balls.

“The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off,” said Chunlei Guo, a professor of optics and co-author of the study. “Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface.”

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Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Metal surface is so water-repellent that drops of water bounce off it like balls
Metal surfaces are transformed into trampolines for water droplets by a new breakthrough laser etching technique.