back to article British boffins perfect process to make any item '100% waterproof'

UK company Plasma Product Innovations (P2i) today demonstrated a chemical process it claims can render any material 100 per cent waterproof. Grappling at an ungodly hour this morning with words like 'hydrophobic', 'nanotechnology' and 'submicroscopic-surface-enhancement', a small number of half-asleep hacks were shown how a …


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  1. dervheid

    100% waterproof...

    That'd be the "Wellington Boot" then!

  2. bobbles31

    Waterproof electronics?

    "Eventually, we hope, yes. We are very keen to apply it to electronics, ultimately making them waterproof, although this is still in the early stages of development."

    In other words....

    I hadn't thought of that, thanks very much. Now, where did I leave that number for the guy from Intel/HP/LG/Panasonic/TOM TOM/[Insert electronics manufacturer of choice]?

  3. Dave Silver badge


    sounds cool for waterproofing gadgets, but I'm not sure about clothing. If it's *so* waterproof does that mean that treated articles won't breath in the same way that Goretex does. Could get a bit sweaty in there....

  4. Steve Mason
    Thumb Up

    awesome news for bikers

    Motorcycle leathers and so-called "waterproofs" are never entirely waterproof despite what manufacturers claim - and only get worse over time.

    Can't wait for this to hit the shelves!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    There's always an exception.

    I can think of at least one product that will never be made waterproof.

    Water !

  6. Patrick Seyler

    Bit different to GoreTex me thinks

    I thought the whole point of goretex was to be a oneway street for water, i.e. let water out but not in, to allow for breathable material and not so sweaty clothing, I am guessing this would not work in the same way.

    Anyways great invention but not a goretex killer me thinks......

  7. The Mole


    With clothing and footware particularly making something waterproof isn't that hard. The challenge that GoreTex has managed is to make it waterproof and breathable. The advantage of breathable fabrics is that sweat can evaporate from your foot/armpits etc and pass out through the material while rain can't penetrate in through the material. If the material is not breathable then you will still end up with soggy (and very smelly) sock after a long hike just from sweat.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi-Tec? Schmi-Tec.

    Such a shame that it's Hi-Tec adopting this. Their footwear is so badly constructed that it falls apart within 6 months of daily wear.

  9. Christoph

    Is the material still breathable?

    Can water vapour from inside still get out through treated material? If so this is very useful - if not, if will be unwearable.

  10. Peter Gold badge

    What happens when you treat a water bottle?

    Just curious - do you end up with a bubble of water hovering 1 inch off the surface or what?

    I have another good use for this: car windshields. Stuff like Rain-X works well, but needs bi-weekly renewal, and nano coating seems less effective after half a year, but both are good enough to repeat the effort to maintain the result. I can also see this work for seats and windows in general.

    And it would be a fantastic practical joke to give someone a treated towel ..


  11. Martin Lyne
    Thumb Up


    Would that stop rusting if adapted for use on metallics?

    Does it do anything to stop water leaking through fibres? A gooey spray might fill small gaps, wheras this sounds like it wouldn't.

    Still.. FREAKING COOL.

  12. Anonymous John

    Mine's the one

    above the pool of water on the floor.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this a spray?

    Is it something you can spray on, or do you have to buy stuff that's been treated in the factory?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    So if it's totally waterproof.....

    ..... how do you wash it?

    The surprisingly dry but filthy one in the corner please.

  15. Tim Schomer

    Could this...

    ... be applied to the Governments' data protection methodology?

    - Mine's the one with the USB stick & the CDs in the pocket

  16. Jon Brunson


    If they used this to make small digital waterproof cameras, I'd bite. Having to faff with my current waterproof case with its gels and seals is not that easy (especially when you start your two week holiday abroad and find you forgot the sealing gel).

  17. alain williams Silver badge

    Great news for small boys

    wanting to avoid bathtime

  18. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Can I please

    have my shoulders done.

    As well as the Teflon coating.

  19. jai

    other applications

    can they apply it to glass? or at least plastic?

    then you could fill a glass of water and it'd be repelled from the sides

    so in theory, you'd not have to bother washing it ever?

  20. fifi

    Go do some reading...

    Yes, it's breathable.. at least it's claimed to be.

    yegads, are none of you able to browse further than the pages of el Reg?


    [flame, cos I'm about to be]

  21. Jerome Fryer

    Can this be sprayed on a person?

    Just wondering because I'm a lousy swimmer, so being 100% waterproof could be handy.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    So not a Gore-Tex killer then?

    Because if everything on the shoe/garment is 100% waterproof, then water is not only not getting in - it's also not getting out. Which would be equivalent to exercising in a black bin bag with a head hole cut out of it.

    Mine's the one with sweat pouring out of it

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not a Gore Tex beater

    The point of Gore Tex is not it's waterproofing abilities, plenty of materials before it offered waterproof, but that Gore Tex it one way - it lets water out but not in.

    Accidently step into water that is deeper than your boots and you'll have wet feet for the rest of the day. At least un-waterproofed boots let that water out and so does Gore Tex, but boots waterproofed by this method would trap that water inside!

    Likewise sweat would be trapped inside the boot, or inside the rain coat etc. Compare wearing a breathable waterproof against those plastic/rubber backed ones where after a couple of hours you are sticky and chafing.

    This tech has great potential, but waterproofing clothing? FAIL

  24. Richie

    For all those asking but too lazy to google

    According the the P2i website:

    "The ion-mask™ treatment of textiles and footwear delivers true waterproofing with no loss of breathability."

  25. Steve
    IT Angle

    not necessarily waterproof

    Water repellent doesn't necessarily mean water proof. Treating a string vest with this won't magically mean that you stay dry out in the rain whilst wearing said vest. It would mean that the vest stays dry, or rather that the cotton it's made from doesn't soak up the water.

    Most waterproof items (good ones anyway) eventual failure mode is to seep through the seams where there has to be a physical join.

    And most of the time people wearing water proof items get wet because water runs in through the obvious openings, where your head and arms stick out for example.

    (not saying that this is rubbish, just saying that it's not magic).

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Goretex doesn't work

    It doesn't let sweat out and if badly designed, lets water in the sewn joints (unless they are properly taped) and drips down the neck/throat area.

    Can't see this being an improvement unless it really does repel water from a distance (even if a millimeter).

    Notice the picture above only shows the toes of the boot not getting wet - dunk it upto it's shoelaces and show the insides !!!

    Probably alien technology involved from a crashed UFO.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Martin Klefas-Stennett

    Water vs Water vapour

    Just because something repels 100% of liquid water doesn't mean for a minute that it won't be breathable. The treatment repels liquid water from the fabric and doesn't rubberise the fabric or really seal it in any way. The breathable nature of the original garment will be unaffected.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    A goretex boot wouldn't allow water to drain out if it got filled from the top, goretex allows vapour sized water particles/molecules/whatever through but water itself is stopped.. or something along those lines. I'm no scientist. I know as i recently left my goretext boot outside the tent in the rain, it filled up good n proper, and didn't drain.

    Paris, she loves to be filled up

  30. Peyton

    Very neat, but...

    I wonder what its effects on an item's ability to biodegrade or be recycled are? Seems like it might impede both...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @MartinLyne: "Would that stop rusting if adapted for use on metallics?"

    No, that would be paint!

    General Comment:

    Regarding the comments about it not being a GoreTex killer (which I agree with), this reminds me of the Astronaut pencil story. Imagine that story re-written .....

    "Faced with the problem of making objects completely waterproof, the UK spent millions developing sub-microscopic nanotechnology ion-masking coatings. Meanwhile, everyone else used a plastic bag."

  32. Alan Braggins


    Goretex membrane isn't one way, nor a sponge, it has tiny holes that are small enough to let water vapour though but not let droplets of liquid water through. At least until they get clogged up.

    Whether fabric treated like this would behave the same way would depend on the fibre size and how tightly woven it was, or how porous a non-woven material was.

  33. Christopher A Light

    I see...

    And what about Capillary action?

    That's how water penetrates most materials. And if the treatment prevents that, how exactly does it 'breathe'?

    I suspect this product only works on certain materials, because to 'breathe' it has to be able to allow water vapour to pass, but not water droplets - that's how Goretex works, it's actually a PTFE membrane full of holes. Holes too small to admit water droplets, but large enough to pass water vapour.

    I'll believe this stuff when I see it applied to a piece of woven Cordura which, which then becomes totally waterproof...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ Goretex doesn't work

    Sorry I have to disagree, Gore Tex works very well indeed. It's not the only material to do the same job and better materials might be developed, but compared to non-breathable waterproof materials Gore Tex is a winner.

  35. James Pickett


    "under a different brand name, Magnum"

    What - everlasting lollies?

    I'm not convinced by the photo, BTW. I notice they didn't dip the shoes past the laces...

    As a motorcyclist, I'll believe it when I try it, but I'm not holding my breath.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Can be applied to gadgets?

    The statement of making gadgets waterproof as well mean it will stop watering pouring into my laptops air vents :D

  37. dervheid

    @ fifi

    "are none of you able to browse further than the pages of el Reg?"


    Stupid Question.

  38. Geoff

    @ Jon Brunson, Re: Ooooo

    What you want is an Olympus Stylus 850 SW, small 8 Megapixel digital camera, waterproof up to 10m depth and shock proof to 1.5M. I have one and it's brilliant, takes fantastic pictures and video underwater.

    No need for silly waterproof cases.

  39. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    Impregnation and filling up with fluid

    Submicroscopic impregnation will presumably have to be applied using industrial methods and pressure technology, maybe safety precautions to prevent nanoparticle damage to human tissues (compare the risk from carbon nanotubes). Which means no home spraying, but much more effective impregnation of producer-treated goods.

    A local small-scale industry will probably spring up (like one-hour photo development) to provide industrial-style impregnation.

    There must be a helluva difference in nanosize between molecules of water and of water vapour, otherwise the GoreTex solution (heh) wouldn't work.

    String vests might prove warmer even though they let in moisture cos the threads wouldn't become wet and lose heat due to evaporation. Same goes for socks, even though they won't absorb moisture but repel it. The capillary effect might be designed in to channel moisture up and out of submerged shoes, but that's for the garment engineers to discover, not us.

    As for submersion being inevitable, that's crap. A simple elastic sleeve (impregnated) around the interface between shoe and sock (or trousers even better) would plug this gappy leak.

    So the thing sounds great.

    (Paris cos she has a gappy leak that can only be plugged by summat injecting fluid, and thinks a lot about impregation.)

  40. Jason Harvey

    re: Capillary action

    umm... this is a property of liquids... the skinny holes that would suck up water will allow air to pass freely since air is a gas. if the holes are too small, then water won't get past without being forced (micron filters) but air still moves through it much easier. you forget the concept of densities. less dense substances move easier than more dense substances. water moves easier than lead and air moves easier than water.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Gotta agree with the previous poster. Once had a pair of their boots-- things disintegrated within a year. And I'm a computer professional, a career path which generally doesn't lead to extreme wear on one's shoes.

  42. Johnny FireBlade
    Thumb Up

    @ Steve Mason

    "awesome news for bikers"

    As I was reading the article, I was already imagining myself spraying my leathers! ;)

  43. Solomon Grundy

    It's all Crap

    As any real outdoorsman(woman/alien) will tell you none of the "waterproof" outdoor gear is truly waterproof - it all lets in water after it's saturated.

    Gore-Tex "breathes" better in the ads that in does in the real world. If you're forced to wear it you end up just as wet, but it's from sweat, not rain. If it isn't cold outside you're better off just getting rained on. It won't hurt you ya know.

    A/C said it, if it doesn't really repeal water from the surface it's useless. We're going to need anti-gravity somethings to keep us truly dry.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    I'll be interested to see whether this does genuinely beat gore-tex

    I've been mountaineering, hill-walking, ski-mountaineering and expedition cycling for years. I've tried every material available at some point or another, with varying degrees of success. Gore-tex is by far and away the best. Firstly, as one poster correctly pointed out, it works by having small enough holes in the PTFE membranes that water molecules pass through, but the surface tension of water makes the water droplets too large to get through. This in turn leads to one of it's weaknesses. If you add something to the fabric that reduces the surface tension of water (like detergent) it can stop it from working. As with any breathable fabric, if the osmotic balance between the inside and outside isn't high enough, or the required moisture transport is too high for the rate supported by the fabric, then you will get condensation inside. The times I find that breathability breaks down (in all waterproof/breathable fabrics) is two-fold, one is when you are doing too much exercise, in too hot a state. The second more important one is in very very humid conditions, where there is insufficient osmotic imbalance - for example walking in low cloud. In those conditions you are getting wet regardless.

    Compared to other fabrics though, it is more durable, more waterproof, and more breathable. And I haven't found another fabric that works adequately as a bivi-bag - where the fabric has to transport all the moisture from your breathing as well (and I've spent months and months living in bivi-bags so I have plenty of experience here).

    Gore-tex (or fully waterproof) boots are pretty silly in general though. On most hill-walking in the UK, at some point you will put your foot in a deep bog, or cross a stream that is too deep. With a gore-tex boot, the boot fills up with water and stays there (unlike what someone above mentioned). Jungle boots for the military are actually canvas with drain holes in the bottom, knowing that you are going to get wet. Personally, the best combination I have used is waxed leather boots, worn with gore-tex gaiters. If water gets in the boot, it soaks through the leather from the inside and you don't pour water out of your boot. If it rains, the water runs off the gaiters and boots quite adequately.

  45. kevin biswas

    Nano particles can be dangerous too.

    You get nice dry tumours though.

  46. Alan Esworthy

    How would you wash things?

    Why, you would dry clean them of course.

    Mine's the unusually dry and clean one.

  47. Muscleguy

    rain and sweat are different

    The way stuff like this works is that the water will just slide off as it will be unable to form droplets or to wet the fibres. Sweat evaporates so will pass through as vapour. At most you would have to add a wicking layer inside the treated.

    Most running clothing these days is made from material where the weave means they act as wicks taking the sweat from you and also meaning they dry very quickly if rained on. You cannot wash them in fabric softeners without endangering this property.

    If this treatment means I can have a rain jacket that is lighter than Goretex though that would be good and for the shoes too.

  48. Anonymous Coward


    All the posts commenting on a spray can treatment, are suffering a comprehension fail, the article states; "are treated with the ion-mask plasma", that's an ionised gas plasma.

    Mine's the one with the tazer and can of crazy foam in the pocket.

  49. Mike Holden

    "the left boot has been treated"

    but, that's the one with the sopping toe, while the right boot is bone-dry.

    Or did you mean "the boot on the left, as we look at it, has been treated"?

  50. Ian Michael Gumby

    Not a goretex killer, but still has some applications.

    The trouble with goretex is that it will not always keep you dry.

    (See a bunch of comments above)

    But if you layer your clothing right, or rather the materials right, you can make a fairly water repellent rain gear that does breath. The inner layer is goretex and the outer layer is your water proof fabric, where you have vents to allow the coat to breathe.

    So you stay dry for the most part.

  51. Charles-A Rovira

    This will DESTROY wet T shirt contests

    Seriously, water's SUPPOSED to make you WET.

    I have to go and lie down...

  52. John

    oh man

    Can this be applied to wetsuits?

    Cos that would rock.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    yeah, so you gonna call one o'them to fetch yer phone after it falls in the terlet?

    @peter - yeah, i can see that happening with my better half...i would be laughing all the way to my grave.

    @steve - maybe i would rather see my other half in that string vest - and that would be magic.

    @dervheid - thank you, well done!

    @xjy - Impregnation and filling up with fluid - erm, hasn't that caused enought trouble already?

  54. Tom



    which aint nearly so impressive.

  55. Alan
    Thumb Down

    Electronics Zapper

    "The article states that the objects; "are treated with the ion-mask plasma", that's an ionised gas plasma."

    This means that the treated object will receive an electrical charge, not a good way to treat electronic components. You may make the device waterproof - but chances are it won't work afterwards!

  56. n


    imagine if a swimwear company got hold of this technology and released it to their top swimmers just before an olympic games.....i'm sure some half decent swimmer could pick up 8 gold medals with ease!..........OHHH!....HOLD ON A MINUTE......

  57. Mark Stanbrook

    Why is everyone comparing to Gore-tex?

    Gore-tex is no longer king for most applications where it once was. Both eVent and Paramo's analogy system are more breathable and equally as waterproof (more waterproof in the latter case).

    But this has the potential to blow away Gore-tex and eVent. It can be as light as eVent and as hard wearing as Gore-tex. All you have to do is find a fabric woven in such a way as to have lots of breathability and then waterproof it with this technique.

    However I can't see how to apply it in such a way as to do what only Paramo can do - allow liquid water to pass only in one direction.

  58. Dan
    IT Angle


    "being adopted by the UK military services for clothing and shoes as Hi-Tec manufactures these"

    What? The 80's cheap trainer manufucturer?

  59. Trevor Watt


    If the stuff can not get wet then will fabric etc. that has been made using this technique be bio-degradable?

  60. Oldfogey

    Biker gear

    I suspect that this would be of limited value, for the same reason that most synthetic fabric bike gear is unsatisfactory in the ultimate analysis.

    In really bad weather, the pressure of wind (real or virtual) can force water through the miniscule holes that it would normally not allow it.

    The only satisfactory wet weather bike gear I have ever found is waxed cotton.

    Mines the black Belstaff please - the one standing, not hanging, in the corner.

  61. Pat

    what does water proof really mean here....and waterproof electronics

    I'm surprised no one has commented on this point yet, but from the sounds of it, this product's main claim is to do what cotton doesn't: not retain water. Having a material which blocks the passage of moisture and one which does not absorb moisture are two different functions. It may be that the plasma ion treatment process, when applied to say, shoe leather, makes it so difficult for water to take up residence that it is effectively permitted from navigating through the material as well. But, it could just mean that you can simply shake one of these treated materials dry but that water may still pass through freely.

    Regarding electronics, they're already waterproof! No one ever complains that they have to wring out the moisture on their motherboard or that their power supply has gotten soggy again. The problem with dumping water on your electronics is the millions of new electrical circuits you've just created. With a name like "ion plasma" something tells me a surface treatment is not going to prevent flow of electrons.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Er... what?

  63. Brian
    IT Angle

    Re: AC

    "Hi-Tec? Schmi-Tec.

    Anonymous Coward • Wednesday 27th August 2008 12:21 GMT

    Such a shame that it's Hi-Tec adopting this. Their footwear is so badly constructed that it falls apart within 6 months of daily wear."

    I've owned 3 pairs of Hi-Tec hiking shoes over the course of about 10 years... They consistently outlast anything else I've ever worn. The only other shoes to come close were Solomon brand.

    2 of those pairs I literally wore out hiking in the mountains of Colorado, wore through the rubber after 2-4 years. Never had a problem with them "falling apart" - big name tennies do that something fierce though. All the pairs I owned were fantastic shoes, they would dry out fast when I waded through a stream or river, were light and had great traction.

  64. CTG

    @confused AC

    What are you doing commenting on El Reg if you can't read sed commands?

    He said: "substitute every occurrence of metres with feet", implying that the camera is waterproof only to 10 feet rather than 10 metres.

  65. Scott

    The material becomes waterproof, not what the material covers

    It seems that only a few posters have worked it out. The fabric itself becomes waterproof and will not absorb moisture, but that doesn't mean that water can't go through the fabric.

    Think of it like a plastic bag. you can wrap it around your hand and put it in water to keep your hand dry. Take it out and the plastic bag itself can simply be shaken dry. Now put hole in the plastic bag (like the hundreds of holes in woven fabric) and repeat. Your hand will now get wet, but the plastic bag can still be shaken dry.

    So, for example, motorcycle gear treated with this won't help to keep you any drier as such, but it will prevent the gear itself from getting wet and heavy and taking ages to dry out. Leather jackets treated with this would be brilliant as they weigh heaps once they start to get water logged.

  66. jake Silver badge

    Another view of Hi-Tec

    > Such a shame that it's Hi-Tec adopting this. Their footwear is so

    > badly constructed that it falls apart within 6 months of daily wear.

    Eh? I just retired my "walking the dogs" Hi-Tecs after about five years of near daily 5+ mile walks (we live in an area where we can only sprint the Whippets a couple times a week & they need exercise to keep in show-shape). My wife went thru' 4 pair of Nikes in the same time frame.

    I also have a pair of the Magnum steel toed hobnails that are probably 12 years old (I added the hobnails). Granted, I only wore them daily for a couple years when I was skinning a cat for my Uncle's logging company ... Hey, I had to do SOMETHING after I got his computers stable!

    And as a side note, they are wide enough to fit my short, stubby feet.

    Not affiliated with Hi-Tec, etc.

    No icon, this isn't AOL.

  67. Michael Greenhill

    You're all missing the point...'s not about making a shoe or a jacket waterproof, it's about waterproofing the surface of any exposed material/

    If you're after waterproof shoes, buy a pair of gumboots (Wellingtons to you lot).

  68. Anonymous Coward

    Another British Invention for the Chinese to Nick

    Oh, well either sell it to them or have them nick it eh?

    It would be nice if something was actually "Made in England" from time to time.

    I still remember when cars were mass produced in Birmingham until the crappy unions killed off BL.

  69. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Am I a bad man because my first thought was

    Will it work on goldfish?

  70. Paul

    Im glad to see...

    im not the only Biker to see this and think "ohh. Waterproof leathers. Dry Boots" and more importantly, no more being laught at by my wife. She seems to have the one and only pair of truly waterproof bike boots in the world.

  71. Bill
    Paris Hilton


    It is touching how the Gortex advertising has made such an impression on everyone. Gortex says it is breathable but after 20 odd years of climbing and mountaineering I can assure everyone that there is no disernable difference between Goretex (or any other membrane treated fabric) and PU Nylon.

    The real difference nowadays is most good jackets are lined and that stops the clammy feel that rainproof kit used to have though at the expense of weight.

    Try spending a night in a Goretex bivvy bag and see how wet the sleeping bag is in the morning even without rain.

    Paris because of sleeping bags

  72. Anonymous Coward

    Bring on the water proof towel!

    Thats friggin excelent I want one, no two, four...

  73. James

    But is it BREATHABLE?

    If I inhale it can I breathe under water?

    Love to see the warning about that on the tin!

  74. Anonymous Coward


    Because he obviously didn't say "seconds or feet or metres or Gs" which was what that reads as. And the g at the end is for?

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better solution - lard

    Simply coat everything in thick layers of pig fat. It's biodegradable, can be turned into diesel and it makes the flakiest pastry.

  76. John Dougald McCallum

    waterproof gadgets??

    Can be applied to gadgets?

    Anonymous Coward • Wednesday 27th August 2008 14:12 GMT

    The statement of making gadgets waterproof as well mean it will stop watering pouring into my laptops air vents :D

    No it will still pour in through the vents,but,it might not go phut when it does

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why are all these comments being posted about being biodegradeable? Things dont necessarily have to be wet to degrade. They just need lil micro organisms to eat away at it.

  78. Ascylto

    @ Nathan Hobbs

    "Or to coat the decs and superstructure?"

    Will it be good for Ants, too!

    Sorry. Yes, that is my coat.

  79. number-g



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