We all know that water and mobile electronic devices aren't a good mix. But living on a world whose surface is around 70 percent water can sometimes make it hard to keep the two separate. While wrapping your device in a waterproof case will provide protection, they add bulk and can sometimes affect usability. California-based company Liquipel claims to have developed a hydrophobic nanocoating one thousand times thinner than a human hair that can be applied to a smartphone to protect it from accidental spills without affecting its functionality.
The Liquipel coating is applied to a mobile device inside a chamber that creates a vacuum into which the Liquipel vapor is introduced so that it permeates the entire device. Using a process the company says is "only found in the natural world on the surface of the Sun," the coating is bonded to the surface of the device at the molecular level, which means it should last for the life of the device. The chamber is then returned to atmospheric pressure and, voila, the device is now waterproof.
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The company says Liquipel is invisible to the naked eye and won't affect the feel or performance of the device. Although it is a non-conductive coating, currents are still able to flow where there is a direct connection. So even though it reaches into all the device's nooks and crannies, you'll still be able to use headphones, charge the device, and access microUSB or SIM cards without any hassle. It's also won't damage the microphone or negatively affect the sound quality of the speakers. In fact, the company claims the coating will actually prevent the soft materials commonly used in speakers from breaking down from exposure to moisture.
If you're looking to put Liquipel to the test yourself, you'll need to send your device off to the company and shell out either US$59 for a standard treatment that will take a couple of days, $69 for a priority treatment for a quicker turnaround, or $79 for the inclusion of a protective film to provide protection from scratches. The list of compatible devices is currently limited to iPhone 3G/S, 4/S, HTC Evo 4G/Shift 4G, HTC MyTouch 4G, HTC Thunderbolt, Motorola Droid X/X2 and the Samsung Charge.
Liquipel points out that its coating is designed to protect from "accidental water damage" and shouldn't be seen as a green light to start swimming with your device. However, as the video below shows, the coating is capable of protecting a device from water damage after being completely submerged. The company's display at CES 2012 also had an iPhone 4 being drenched by a continually running showerhead.