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$1,000 Spray Makes Gadgets Waterproof 278

Rio writes "A new $1,000 spray claims to protect notebook computers, iPods, cell phones and other electronic gadgets from liquid, making them completely waterproof, a report says. A creator of the technology said it could be used for emergency first-responders, bio-medical devices and historic preservation." This might be a bit of a flashback from last year.
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$1,000 Spray Makes Gadgets Waterproof

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  • Awesome. (Score:5, Funny)

    by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:35PM (#24370789) Homepage
    I always wanted to make an iPhone call from 1000 feet deep. Of course, that big air thingy sticking in my mouth is kind of a hinderance, but go technology!
  • Not a Spray (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:35PM (#24370791) Homepage Journal

    The FAQ for the Golden Shellback [] (what they call this stuff) site says:"9. What aspects confuse people most about this process:
    a. People get confused and think this is a spray. It is not, the coating needs to be applied in a piece of equipment.
    b. People seem to wonder a lot about the contacts and how they are sealed. The contacts are not, the surfaces are sealed. So, water can run in and out.

    That right there ought to deal with a lot of the statements and questions that are about to be made in this thread.

    • by PC and Sony Fanboy ( 1248258 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:40PM (#24370897) Journal
      Is it a spray? are the contacts sealed? I'm not sure...
    • #1 for me is: is $1000 a fixed price, or does it vary by item size?
    • Re:Not a Spray (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SkOink ( 212592 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:50PM (#24371075) Homepage

      People seem to wonder a lot about the contacts and how they are sealed. The contacts are not, the surfaces are sealed. So, water can run in and out.

      Think about this logically for a second. If by "surfaces" he means the circuit board itself, then this is called conformal coating and has been around for years. It is also not practical in small consumer electronics. If he means the surface of the device, then this requires sealing the entire device and making it fully waterproof (and not very useful).

      By fact, by definition water damages electronics by shorting contacts together. If water is allowed to run in and out of the device, the contacts must be sealed.

      I think that faq is a little disingenuous.

    • Re:Not a Spray (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hellwig ( 1325869 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:10PM (#24371371)
      So let me see if I understand this.

      The device is not sealed against water (i.e. it's not wrapped in celophane), so water can flow freely throughout the device. At the same time, contacts are not sealed, meaning the water that can flow freely though-out the device can short the contacts that have not been covered (battery, headphone, button, etc...), essentially destroying the device (by burning out components, batteries, etc...).

      In otherwords, the coating only keeps water off the surface of a device that by itself isn't prone to water damage to begin with? I.e. all the plastic-coated IC's out there will last just fine under water, as long as you don't apply power to them.

      What about moving surfaces, such as the speaker or microphone diaphram? Those devices are sensitive to water (the felt or paper used probably won't stand-up to water), and the high-frequency makes it unlikely that the coating will adhere and stay on.

      Can this coating be applied to a thouch-sensitive surface? Can it be applied to the lens of a camera without severely distorting the optics?

      I once dropped my phone in a bowl of soup, and the phone told me I had plugged an unrecognized peripheral into the headphone jack. It took a couple hours of carefully disassemling, cleaning, and drying before I got it working again (luckily nothing burned-out), and it sounds like this coating wouldn't have helped (since the contacts within the headphone jack wouldn't have been coated anyway) . Nothing like spending $1000 on absolutely nothing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by megaditto ( 982598 )

        A buddy of mine used to wrap his electronics and papers in a condom (you can buy the ones for oral sex that come without grease/lubricant, apparently) any time we went out to sea. If it's just your cellphone in there, you can still make calls without even taking it out, it's absolutely great.

        As to this spray thing, I think you are right that a watertight bubble around your cellphone is the only way to waterproof things since the moment any seawater gets it, it will rust the thing through in a couple of days

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The salt and other minerals left behind when the water is gone grabbed me as why most of what's being discussed is silly on here.

          It does you little good to seal up a laptop or iphone, all to have it full of calcium or salt in a few dips.

      • Re:Not a Spray (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheLostSamurai ( 1051736 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @02:45PM (#24372843)
        According to the manufacturers website [] this will be a thin film coating that is applied by submersion of the device in the coating material. Meaning, anywhere that water could possibly go would all ready be coated by this substance. They also claim they have coated speakers that are able to play underwater, and our researching the coating of camera optics.

        Also, according to Gizmodo [], the coating of your electronic devices will be offered as a service for $50-$75. They also have a nice demo video posted.
    • Well, for $6.95 you can actually get a spray that will "make" your computer waterproof... but I'd guess it will seriously screw up the screen, the PCB, and pretty much anything you spray it on besides concrete or outdoor decking. []

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Huggs ( 864763 )
      What would this do the the device's warranty? If I could get an iPhone coated in this stuff and have it not get damaged by water, that would be worth the $50-$75 this might cost... but if it voids my warranty to do so... part of the point is missed.
  • by Johnny_Law ( 701208 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:37PM (#24370843)
    A spray that magically repels water, but not air, even at vent openings?

    Son, I would like to see you a part of the Brooklyn Bridge. Not the whole thing, mind you, just a portion as a souvenir. You'll get a certificate that will be filed with a US copyright office documenting its authenticity.
    • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:53PM (#24372037) Homepage Journal

      Actually, water droplets are thicker than water. Go to a mattress store and ask about their mattress covers; buying a waterproof cover is pretty much mandatory for a foam mattress (think *sponge*), and the current level of technology [] stops water and allergens but not air.

      Mattress sellers often have a demo device, basically a closed tube where one end is covered only by their fabric and the tube has a whole bunch of colored mouthwash in it. Air goes through it, but you can't shake the mouthwash out.

      This would obviously ding fan efficiency, but fanless laptops already exist...

      I would wonder about their claim of "Completely Waterproof" ... does that mean I can drop it in the tub and scrub it clean? There has to be a limit somewhere...

      • by Jay L ( 74152 ) *

        Ditto for water-resistant jackets, tents, etc. As a Boy Scout I learned that you should never touch the inside of a tent when it's raining; that changes the surface tension of the water (or some such thing) and the rain will start leaking in where you touched it. I've seen the same thing on modern Patagonia jackets, especially as the coatings wear off.

  • Snake Oil Incorporated reported their stocks have risen with a whole of 8%!
    • by geobeck ( 924637 )

      Snake Oil Incorporated reported their stocks have risen with a whole of 8%!

      Yeah, but they'll fall after I sue them for stealing the secret formula for my magic spray that repels tigers*:

      - 250 mL distilled water
      - 25 mg proylene glycol
      - 10 mg "secret ingredient"


      *Not intended for use in Asia.

  • by SkOink ( 212592 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:40PM (#24370895) Homepage

    In order to waterproof anything electronic, every entry point for water needs to be completely sealed. Does anybody else see the problem here? Yes, that Blackberry might still be powered on. But no, you probably can't depress the keys any more and you almost certainly can't charge it or plug in headphones.

    Also, 0.001" thick? I bet it scrapes off on accident rather easily. I also highly doubt that anybody could apply a coating that thin from a hand-held spray can.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

      Or - rather than sealing off every entry point for water, you take the device apart and seal every surface - which is what they do. It doesn't matter how thin the surface of the coating is - inside the device, unless you make a habit of pulling things apart and scratching them.

      Oh - and it's not a spray.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jimbolauski ( 882977 )
      See the demo's, they use the buttons on a Blackberry and use the headphone plug on the iphone. []
  • $1000 (Score:2, Insightful)

    For $1,000 I could buy a new notebook, iPod, cell phone...
  • by seandiggity ( 992657 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:45PM (#24370985) Homepage
    From the FAQ [] on the website:
    a. People get confused and think this is a spray. It is not, the coating needs to be applied in a piece of equipment.
  • by sl8anic ( 989939 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:45PM (#24370995)
    You can get a can of stuff like Humiseal for a few bucks, what's so special about this silly thing?
  • by archen ( 447353 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:48PM (#24371049)

    I hear if you dump this stuff in the middle of a swimming pool, the universe ends.

  • There are plenty of conformal coatings for this sort of thing. Fin-L-Kote is about $20/can. I've used that on PC boards in robotics applications. Automotive electronics are routinely conformal coated, usually with a rather thick coating.

    The main problem is electrical contacts. Those have to be masked when the electronics are sprayed or dipped. The military/marine solution is gold-plated contacts, with everything else conformal coated.

    This isn't going to work for something with a vented hard drive. S []

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by John Sokol ( 109591 )

      This isn't a conformal coatings, it's a hydrophobic coating more like Scotch Gard, or Rain-X

  • by ilovegeorgebush ( 923173 ) * on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:50PM (#24371085) Homepage

    A creator of the technology said it could be used for emergency first-responders, bio-medical devices and historic preservation.

    Useful for preserving your iPhone for the full length of the 268 million months you're tired to your contract here in the UK.

  • In other news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:51PM (#24371107)

    In other news...

    Millions of gadgets have shutdown, or been damaged, due to overheating.

  • Good one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:55PM (#24371169) Journal

    I just don't see how this can work. It has to do one of two things. It either keeps water out, meaning that it covers and seals every opening that leads into the device, or it somehow coats every surface of the device, inside and out, including all circuit boards and components.

    So, if it seals the device, how does it know what openings have to be there? Blackberrys (at least my pearl), iPods, etc have power and headphone jacks. So it is only waterproof until I have to plug something into it, rupturing the film? How long will this stuff last before it ruptures on its own due to normal use (like pushing keys on a keyboard). What about battery compartments and other doors on the device? My Blackberry has a door over the MicroSD slot that I open frequently.

    The other option is to coat all surfaces inside the device. What about things that have to be left open to the atmosphere to allow humidity to exit, barometric pressure to equalize, etc? I own a Yaesu VX-7R handheld transceiver for amateur radio. This device is fully submersible. One problem they had with the first batch was the waterproofing sealed the inside of the device off from the atmosphere, which would cause a pressure differential against the speaker during barometric changes, which would reduce the amount the diaphragm could travel, resulting in reduced audio output. They fixed it by installing a valve that would equalize pressure. Now that problem occurred in a device designed to be waterproof. Just imagine the problems this would cause with typical gadgets.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      My watch has a battery compartment and my watch is completely water resistant. I would imagine all they'd need to do is have rubber seals on each openable compartment on the unit such as battery compartments or power or data jacks, and which, as long as the compartments are closed when the device is submerged, all would be just fine and dandy.
    • by Jay L ( 74152 ) *

      So, if it seals the device, how does it know what openings have to be there?

      I don't think this is what they're proposing, but you could plug "dummy plugs" into all the openings, then apply the coating, cut around the base of the plugs, and remove them. You'd have a little bit of leakage where you cut (you've peeled a little bit away), but you'd be more waterproof than before.

      There's an interesting world of spray-on and even roll-on coatings [] out there, especially if you have access to a paint booth or a st

  • by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4@y[ ] ['aho' in gap]> on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:55PM (#24371173) Homepage

    Sounds like a conformal coating [] which is nothing new, you can buy a can of the spray on type at your local electronics store for a few bucks.

  • Batteries (Score:2, Insightful)

    by loafula ( 1080631 )
    How would you change out the battery in a protected product? The material obviously doesn't conduct electricity. Do they coat over the battery compartment, thus sealing your battery inside? You'd be forced to break the seal every time you swap batteries, or perform a reset on smartphones with the reset button beneath the compartment lid.
  • I've had two device fail because of liquid.. A 2 megapixel (as was the style at the the time) camera fell into a lake for about 3 seconds... pulled the batteries let it dry for a week. DOA.

    A flash that somehow got beer into it.. POP, whoops..

    A little weatherproofing would have helped. 1000$ is a bit steep though.

  • by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:19PM (#24371485) Homepage Journal

    Like a month ago we had to make something IP54 Compliant This is part of the IEC 60529 Standard []

    So even though I am the Linux Software GUY, I started to investigate water repellent coatings.

    I think they are just using a hydrophobic coating. []

    Hardly worth $1000 a bottle.

    Similar to Scotchgard, Rain-X, Aquapel, Jigaloo, RainClear and Magic Sand.

    These use Organosilanes like Trimethylsilanol (TMS) (CH3)3SiOH, or perfluorooctanesulfonates (PFOS) C8HF17O3S. []
    Look at the fluorene chains on this one,
    fluorocarbons are the basis for things like Teflon and Fluorinert that don't react with anything and so in Teflon's case make good non-stick surfaces.

    Unfortunately Scotchgard has been "reformulated" to make is "safer" PFOS never breaks down, good for electronics, bad for people and the environment. the new Formula (Perfluorobutane sulfonate PFBS ) is designed to break down after a month, so you'd have to keep reapplying.

    If you want to research this further see Patents, 3574791, 6676733, and 6994890

    Also get on youtube and look up magic sand, some cool videos there.

  • Prediciton (Score:3, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:25PM (#24371595) Homepage
    OK, now that we've all a bunch of posts about how it can't work, my prediction is that as soon as they get a patent, we'll have at least as many posts (many from the same people) about how the patent is bad because it is obvious.
  • $1000? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:39PM (#24371835) Journal
    Is that per barrel? I can't imagine how any chemical sealant can cost that much, or who would be willing to buy it at that price.
    • Seriously, who would use this 'spray' on their iphone/ipod/whatever? At $1000, it costs 2 or 3 times the price of most consumer electronics. You could, probably, buy some sort of accidental damage insurance much cheaper than this spray costs, and just get the device replaced if it's damaged by water. Heck, put the $1000 into a fairly safe/conservative investment fund, and get interest on it.

  • Of course, when the damn thing leaks water after all, I'm sure the vendor will claim:

    "That's not water damage, the WIND drove the water into your device, and if you read the guarantee very carefully, you'll see that wind damage is excluded from coverage."

    This thing has snake-oil written all over it.

  • how well the DVD drive in my laptop will function underwater?

  • I can't imagine a waterproofing spray being a good thing for anything with cooling fans.

  • The creators have said, citation not handy, that this isn't for waterproofing, but for splash proofing. So, when you drop some coffee on your $300 cell phone, it doesn't die. The movies of them dropping it in water are just demonstrations and not expectations of actual use. Contacts like for headphones and chargers and what not are still open to the water.

  • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @02:44PM (#24372829)

    If it indeed ist just a 1 mil thick water resistant conformal coat, then that far from guarantees electronics will still function.

    A lot of electronics widgets at high operating frequencies (think cell phone RF stages) may not directly be damaged by the water, but the prescence of the water will disrupt their operation by bogging down high speed signals with the high dielectric constant of water (about 80), which is also usually VERY lossy. So expect digital things to go on the fritz till the water fully drains out, and RF stuff to be euqally fouled up with low or no output power until the water drains out fully.

    Over temp and time conformal coats are are real double edged sword. SMT components (99% of the stuff in most of todays consumer electronics) can be damaged in thermal cycling as a result of confomral coating that wicks under their body and expands/contracts much faster than the cermaic bodies of the parts. I've suffered the wrath of multiple different conformal coatings in mil/aerospace and concluded that usually it creates about as much mahem as it prevents. YMMV.

    • I also wonder about any impurities that are suspended in the water and what those might do once the water leaves/evaporates....
  • waterproof? I don't think so.

  • DIY version (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @03:11PM (#24373213)
    I've tried this and it works reasonably well. It's not really a spray, more of a protective barrier. But cheap and reliable: []
  • by FoolsGold ( 1139759 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @07:46PM (#24377521)

    On Tekzilla: []

    Can't remember where exactly in the episode, but it's there, and there's some good footage of various pieces of tech all wet and still running.

interlard - vt., to intersperse; diversify -- Webster's New World Dictionary Of The American Language