NeverWet on Electronics?

adafruit-neverwet-04

Does NeverWet work on electronics? The team over at Adafruit just had to find out — and to an extent, it does work!

But wait, what’s NeverWet? It’s Rust-Oleum’s miracle water-repelling coating which is super hydrophobic. It actually works, and we’re kind of surprised we haven’t seen it used in a hack yet! Anyway, let’s start this hack with a quick disclaimer. NeverWet is not designed for waterproofing electronics.

But when has that ever stopped the pursuit of science!?

The experimenters chose a few electronic guinea pigs to test out NeverWet’s capabilities. An Arduino Micro, a FLORA LED broach, and a Raspberry Pi. Using the proper application method they coated the unlucky electronics with a few generous layers of the product. Using plain NYC tap water they tested each component. The FLORA LED broach (shown above) lasted underwater for about 4 hours before it died. The Arduino Micro fared similar, however the Wet Raspberry only booted once before losing connection to the SD card.

For full details check out the full experiment or stick around after the break to see a video of the tests.

[via Reddit]

Comments

  1. Angus says:

    They didn’t test what happens without the NeverWet coating? Some electronics will work for a while in tap water without any special treatment.

    • Fungus says:

      This.

      The fact that it failed after 4 hours shows the “neverwet” wasn’t doing much, not that it was magically protecting the electronics.

    • Sven says:

      Actually, most simple electronics will run for a while in tap water until it has built up enough to make the water really conductive and/or electroetched away an important trace.

      I “water cooled” (dumped in a bowl of water) some resistors i used for loading an experiment, they lasted a few hours before the leads fell off.

      The fact that the raspi died fast isn’t surprising, it’s running at much higher frequencies and has much more sensitive signalling.

  2. Rich Grise says:

    Brooch.

  3. John says:

    The point being?

    Did they think it would not stop working?

    Why is this not the fail of the week?

  4. FuzzyfuzzyFungus says:

    I’m honestly quite surprised… Not because a product unsuited to the application didn’t work; but just because all those devices are low-voltage only (no nice CCFL backlight inverters or even modestly high voltage DC inputs) and tap water isn’t all that conductive (unless there is something seriously wrong with it, ions in moderation, please).

    Naively, I would have expected either instant death, for anything with high voltages uncomfortably close to delicate logic, or that is just plain wimpy, and running-without-incident-until-corrosion-eventually-sets-in for anything else.

    Any hypotheses about what would take multiple hours to score a kill? That seems too quick for corrosion damage; but far too slow for any design that isn’t suited to water’s limited dielectric properties.

    • John says:

      It only takes one unintentional 3.3 5 volt path and the things whiff. Given that all three devices have a necessity for open contact, either in the form of plugs or switches, they failed exactly as one would expect IMHO.

      The conductivity of tap water is way above the impedances designed into these low power devices.

  5. Gravis says:

    i would very much like to see a control test. it’s not following the scientific method without one.

  6. supershwa says:

    Add some baking soda or salt to the water. That’ll tell you whether or not the NeverWet is actually working (and in less than 4 hours.)

  7. NotSoAnonymous says:

    I’ve tried the neverwet in other applications. Sadly, it’s really not all that. Don’t get me wrong, put on fresh, water bounces off it in spectacular fashion. However, it doesn’t really work on anything that moves (Cloth, for anything more than a few minutes) or anything that comes in contact with anything else, ever. It’s very fragile. I suppose you could put it on your roof, bu leaves sliding down it would likely scrub it off, and it’d be pretty expensive. Also, it’s ad’s keep saying ‘liquid this, liquid that’ It really should be just water. If you dilute the water with just about anything, it stops working as well.

  8. Joe says:

    On youtube they demonstrate the product on an iphone and it apparently works quite well. Unsurprisingly there was no control…

  9. tekkieneet says:

    I guess they showed NeverWet is splash proof, not water resistant. There
    is a big difference. The good old conformal coating works, but it is
    messy and a pain if you want to rework your board.

    There could be contaminations that increases the conductivity of water.
    e.g. solder flux not completely cleaned off, human sweat, Cl/F & other
    chemicals added to drinking water. Once you get a electrochemical
    reaction going, you’ll get corrosion. Stuff not covered under solder
    mask and near high electric fields will go first i.e. contacts, pins,
    pads, solder joints, regions with a dissimilar metals e.g. connectors
    contacts.

    Digital outputs have low impedance and low voltage, so it is unlikely to
    “short out” right away as seen on TV/movies. If the unused inputs are
    not tied to a fixed voltage (e.g. pull up/down), then it is a bad design
    in the first place.

    Supercaps uses pure water as dielectric are rated to 2.5V (plus a design
    margin), so that’s about how much voltage pure water can hold up without
    conducting.

  10. fartface says:

    How can we cay it works when there was a failure? I would like to see the exact same test done with just plain old Clear lacquer. Because I found that does work for an extended period of time. I have used simple clear rustoleum may times when I used to do the RC boat stuff and needed to waterproof board and gear.

    I consider it “works” when you can leave it in the glass of water for days on end.

    • Mohonri says:

      That was my reaction as well–if I’m going to design something for repeated/extended exposure to water, I sure as heck am not going to use normal pin header connections or USB connectors. I’ll be using waterproof connectors (or soldering together) and dipping everything in lacquer or varnish.

  11. Blah says:

    IMO, this whole thing was just a novelty. On the video the Never Wet team loaded to YouTube, the electronic application they suggested was to coat electronics like phones/tablets over openings to help prevent water from getting in at all. After all, while the Never Wet repels water, nothing I found about it said it didn’t conduct electricity; making this experiment moot if it does.

    All right now. With that said, I would like to see the Pi done again after some liberal application of hot glue to the SD card or something.

  12. Steven says:

    >Slightly Off Topic<

    I got Neverwet with the intention of waterproofing my boots. I applied it per the instructions on the package. According to the package the color was "Frosted clear".
    Long story short, the bad news, the Neverwet finish turned my boots white. The good news, after two days, the finish started to peel off my boots. After about two weeks, there is hardly a trace of the Neverwet coating on the boots.

    My judgement, Neverwet is not for leather boots.

  13. nag says:

    I wonder what happens when you put neverwet on your dong.

  14. tz2026 says:

    Enamel or simple conformal coating would likely work as well. The problem is not for water to roll off, but for it not to affect the circuits, usually where there is metal

  15. Eric says:

    Probably only works in NYC, the water is special there

  16. threepointone says:

    Last I checked, most of the superhydrophobic coatings rely on a self-assembled hydrophobic silicone coating. The top layer is made of something that’s pretty hydrophobic as-is (silicone coatings are usually a good choice) The bottom layer provides the patterning that creates the geometry that assembles the silicone coat. My general suspicion is that the base coat itself is also silicone-based, and if you know anything about silicones, despite their resistance to chemical attack (they won’t get permanently degraded by just about anything), they’re very permeable and will allow solvents and water to diffuse through. A thin coat, like NeverWet, will never really be able to provide enough protection to protect electronics from moisture. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the application method and thickness of NeverWet prevented good coverage of all the undercuts on the board.

    If you’ve ever played around with moldmaking, my guess for why superhydrophobic coatings aren’t everywhere yet is that they just don’t have the long term resistance that other coatings do. Silicone molds usually degrade anywhere from 10-100 pulls (lots of variables on this), and this probably translates to pretty poor environmental resistance for a thin film that absolutely requires its micron- (or nanometer-? I forgot) scale structure to perform as designed. My understanding is that its corrosion resistance abilities come from the fact that it does not permit water to stay on the surface for very long, and not that the coating itself is capable of withstanding long-term water contact.

  17. Jessie Wan says:

    I suggested to them they try Lanolin spray . Thinned with a solvent lanolin grease from sheeps wool dries leaving a film which protects my boat electricals and tools . Lanolin grease on my cars battery terminals prevent any current from passing !

  18. Dojo says:

    Simply get some acrylic comformal coating. You can put your electronics underwater indefinately if applied properly.

  19. capcouillon says:

    @ Jessie Wan +1
    Go Lanocoat! Use it for everythiing on the boat. Dilelectric, Lanocoat. Lube, Lanocoat. Anti-seize, Lanocoat.

    Nothing like a good coat of “sheep grease”.

  20. jadoo says:

    I applied never-wet to the pcb on my lg optimus i9 a couple of months ago no problems although the chalky coating was quite annoying i didnt have the guts to test it so didn’t think it was noteworthy.

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