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Fear not the toilet - New nano-coating keeps cellphones dry

posted 30 Jan 2012, 08:56 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Jan 2012, 09:33 ]

There are a few things more frustrating than losing your cell-phone to water damage. The electronics are not designed for contact with water so if, for example, your hand-held device slips from your grasp and lands in the toilet, the chances are it's gone forever. At least that used to be the case, but now a California company has come up with a nano-coating it says will protect your phone from water damage.

Most people know someone who's been in the unenviable position of having to retrieve their cell-phone from the toilet, knowing that their mobile conection with the world was probably dead.
California start-up company, Liquipel says that no longer needs to be the case. The company has developed an innovative nano-coating technique it says can completely waterproof your phone, protecting it from water-related accidents.

"Liquipel is a preventative coating, so it's not something that we're marketing in a way that we want people swimming with their devices or needlessly exposing them to water", said Liquipel co-founder Kevin Bacon. "That's more to prevent those accidents which usually water-damage your electronics, such as being caught in the rain, dropped in the sink, or unfortunately, it happens, put in the toilet, or if you've got to take a quick call in the shower, those types of things."

Liquipel is not a case and it does not alter the shape, aspect or performance of a cell-phone. The company describes the product as a nano-coating, vaporized from liquid form to penetrate the entire device, including all of the vital components inside and out. They say it leaves an impenetrable coating a thousand time thinner than a human hair and undetectable to the human eye.

Sales agent Sarah Chitrars says she won't describe the patent-pending technology in detail but was prepared to discuss the process in general terms.

"What we're able to do is place your electronic device inside our especially engineered Liquipel machine. In that machine we have a chamber that pumps down and ignites our plasma process to permeate your device on a molecular level, so the internal and external components. At the end of that process, which takes about 30-35 minutes, your phone has been Liquipeled," she said.

Chitrars says customers can mail their devices to Liquipel's offices in Santa Ana, California, and have their phones treated for US$59. Liquipel says it is able to process 1,000 devices an hour.

That capacity was put to the test after the company first introduced their technology at the Consumer Electronics Show - the world's largest consumer technology trade show - in Las Vegas in January. Suddenly, Liquipel found itself swamped with phone calls and was forced to briefly close its customer operations.

"It has been absolutely unreal. I can't put a number on it but I can tell you that it has been challenging our capacity. But since then we have gone full scale, brought in the extra help that we needed and we're back and open for business," said Bacon.

Liquipel says the coating will outlast your phone. The company says it has a list of 11 approved devices - including the iPhone - that can currently be treated with the vapor. But in theory, says Bacon, the same technology can be applied to any kind of consumer electronics, from tablets to headphones.

"The coating itself is applicable to all type of personal electronic devices so we hope to see it in the majority of products that are going to be coming or released," he said.

"It's just right now we've chosen to focus primarily on mobile phones, just because we feel like they're the ones that are most likely to come into situations where they're going to be water-damaged. These phones have become an extension of ourselves and we shouldn't be limited by the environments that we're able to take them into."

The company is in talks with manufacturers, with hopes of putting Liquipel-treated phones on store shelves, and bringing relief to cellphone users everywhere.