GE, biomimicry, wind and nanopants

Earlier this week, I visited GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York, near Albany. Cool place, the home base for about 1,900 scientists, and one of four GE research centers around the world. The others are in Bangalore, Munich and Shanghai.

I wrote a column for FORTUNE’s website about GE’s venture investments (GE brings good things to startups), about which I’ll blog a little more next week. But for today, a look at how GE’s research into how nanotechnology, which is the study of matter on a molecular and atomic scale, could help drive the wind turbine industry. This technology is inspired, in part, by lotus plants leaves that are able to repel water–an example of biomimicry, which studies nature’s best ideas and using them to solve human problems. GE’s goal, as the video below shows, is to come up with nano-coatings on wind blades or aircraft engines that repel water. This technology is inspired, in part, by lotus plants leaves that are able to repel water–an example of biomimicry, which studies nature’s best ideas and using them to solve human problems.

Materials that do a great job of repelling water are called superhydrophobic. An example would be nanopants–spill a soda on them, and the liquid would roll right off. Check out this video to see how it works–the water droplets below really, really don’t like the nanocoating. My only critique: GE should have set this video to music.

You can read a blogpost from GE engineer Joseph Vinciquerra about superhydrophobic technology, “Creating anti-icing surfaces,” on GE’s global research blog.

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