Science of the Day: Watch Water Bounce Off a Superhydrophobic Surface

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Researchers at the University of Rochester have created a new type of water-resistant metal where drops literally bounce off the surface.

They achieved this by using a special laser-patterning technique that adds tiny structures to the material.

Most other surfaces that are water-repellant aren’t as powerful and rely on chemical coatings which can wear away over time, but this is permanent.

Rochester’s Chunlei Guo says this superhydrophobic material has a lot of real-world applications, especially in developing countries.

“In these regions, collecting rain water is vital and using super-hydrophobic materials could increase the efficiency without the need to use large funnels with high-pitched angles to prevent water from sticking to the surface,” he says. “A second application could be creating latrines that are cleaner and healthier to use.”

If you think this sounds like something a sewage-water drinking Bill Gates might be interested in, you’d be right, as the project was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Years ago, this same team created the exact opposite effect, with a material that attracts water so strongly that the liquid will actually crawl up the surface.

Innovation of the Day: Bill Gates Drinks Water Extracted From Raw Sewage

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Back in November, Bill Gates visited a plant that turns poop into water, and he took a nice big gulp.

The machine is called an Omniprocessor, and it uses a steam engine to convert raw sewage into electricity, clean drinking water and ash. On top of that, it produces enough excess energy to power itself.

He wrote about the experience on his blog:

"I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water."

The visit was part of The Gates Foundation's efforts to improve sanitation in poor countries. A few years ago, he asked people to try to reinvent the toilet as a possible solution to the problem.

The Omniprocessor was built by the Seattle-based Janicki Bioenergy, which will be conducting a pilot test of the machine in Dakar, Senegal in late 2015.

So how did the water taste?

"The water tasted as good as any I've had out of a bottle," Gates writes. "And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It's that safe."

Tech of the Day: This Robot Can Play Beer Pong Better Than You

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Sorry bro, your days of dominating everyone at beer pong are numbered.

Empire Robotics has created a robotic arm with a specialized ball on the end of it that hardens and softens to pick up objects.

So, for example, it can pick up ping pong balls and toss them into Solo cups.

Watch it flawlessly make 6 cups in a row in the video above, and – if you dare – challenge it in person at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

"The robot is not perfect, so it's possible for a human to win, but it's pretty good, so you'd have to be pretty good at beer pong," said the company's project manager John Dean.