Tiny structures sway with a magnetic field to redirect fluid and sunlight. 

Windshield wipers? Blinds? Those window accoutrements may be things of the past, if a new invention from MIT proves its worth. Engineers have developed a new elastic material covered with microscopic, magnetically activated ‘hairs’ that can direct moisture and sunlight away from a surface by moving in response to a magnetic field.

The hairs—which are about one-fourth the width of a human hair—instantly sway in the direction of an incoming field, forming a path that allows fluid or light to flow the same way.    

“You could coat this on your car windshield to manipulate rain or sunlight,” says Yangying Zhu, a co-author of a study on the material, told MIT News. “So you could filter how much solar radiation you want coming in, and also shed raindrops. This is an opportunity for the future.”

Zhu cited the tiny hairs in our noses—called cilia—as the inspiration for the invention. These work with a layer of mucus to filter out dust, bacteria, and other airborne bits entering our nose as we breathe.  

What's that smell? A smarter window.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Pittsburgh's skyline

    Can a 'New Localism' Help Cities Transcend Gridlock?

    Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak talk about the model of collaborative urban leadership in their book The New Localism.

  2. Design

    Paris: 'Please Do Not Give Us This Free Jeff Koons Sculpture'

    Wrong art, wrong location, say critics.

  3. Equity

    Where Amazon HQ2 Could Worsen Affordability the Most

    Some of the cities dubbed finalists in Amazon’s headquarters search are likely to see a greater strain on their housing market, a new analysis finds.

  4. Orange traffic cones save parking spaces on a neighborhood street in South Boston.

    The Psychology of Boston's Snow Parking Wars

    In Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, an informal code allows residents to claim a parking space after shoveling it out. But the practice is often at odds both with the law and with the mores of changing neighborhoods.

  5. Equity

    Even the Dead Could Not Stay

    An illustrated history of urban renewal in Roanoke, Virginia.