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Chinese Scientists Create 'Unsinkable' Boats

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

19 March 2009

Scientists in China have created a set of miniature boats from silver coated copper, which they claim are virtually 'unsinkable'.

According to the researchers, the miniature vessels - which are only the size of a postage stamp - have been made almost entirely resistant to water due to the way in which their copper mesh exteriors have been coated with silver.

The scientists have modelled the boats' ability to repel water on the 'unsinkable' legs of pond skaters, by devising a way in which an unbreakable pocket of air can be formed between the boats outer layer and water.

Describing the logistics behind this, the scientists explained that the copper's water resistance was formed by giving its outer layer an uneven surface area which was then coated in a "hydrophobic" substance capable of repelling water - a method which allows the boats to remain afloat despite being covered in holes.

During trials, the researchers also discovered that the boats - which can carry a maximum 15g cargo - were also able to stay afloat whilst almost entirely submerged by water.

If the technology can be replicated on a larger scale, then scientists hope it might be used for aquatic robots, although they have ruled out its use in creating full-scale ships.

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