Glass has two key properties, one good, one bad. The good one is that it’s transparent, so we don’t have to drive around in cars using periscopes to see. The bad one is that it’s reflective, which can cause glare and other problems. If you’ve ever driven around with a white envelope or piece of paper on top of your dashboard, you know how annoying the reflection is.
The reflectivity issue is a problem with solar panels, where a percentage of that precious sunlight they’re trying to soak up is uselessly bounced away. In an effort to solve this, a team of MIT researchers have found a way to etch the surface of glass in such a way that it “virtually eliminates reflections, producing glass that is almost unrecognizable because of its absence of glare.” A nice side benefit of this is that water and dust will also not stick to the glass.
What the researchers have done is etched a “nanotexture”—essentially a forest of cones—into the surface of the glass, and the scale of this forest is so tiny that water droplets and dust particles cannot get any purchase. They bounce right off of the surface, as you can see in the video below. It also solves the original goal of preventing glare, as the sharp angle of the cones simply obviates the angles of incidence that a ray of light would bounce off of on a perfectly flat surface.
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Adding New Surface Texture to Glass to Change Its Properties