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December 2020

How Optimized is Mary's World?
Mary is an average and rather ordinary American woman, 28 years old, 5 foot 4 inches (1.625m), and weighs 120 lbs (54.4kg). She doesn't know it, but her world is replete with optimization - more specifically wetting optimization. And she doesn't even know it. Let's spend some of the morning with Mary and discover some of these amazing phenomena.

Mary's cell starts buzzing at 5:40 am. She rolls over to the night table and without looking swipes right and then as her eyes start functioning, she swipes up and spends a minute checking for any urgent overnight texts or emails. The cell phone screen is the most commonly touched surface that is optimized for wetting behavior. In addition to being tempered to avoid breakage, the display has an oleophobic coating that was applied during the manufacturing process. Oleo refers to oil, like the natural skin oils on your finger tips, while -phobic refers to repelling. Thus the display is optimized to repel oils. Many people use screen protectors which are also typically treated with an oleophobic coating. If you want to test yours, place a small drop of water on it. If it spreads out with a low contact angle, it's not coated or the coating has worn off. If it beads up with a higher contact angle, your screen is treated. Kits are available that will reactivate the oleophobic properties you phone had when it was new.

Mary staggers into the bathroom and turns on the shower. To do so, her hand grabs the single-handle chrome-plated Moen shower faucet. Little does she know but Moen applies a hydrophobic coating to their premium faucets. The thought is that if the surface is hydrophilic, then drops of water will remain the surface, dry, and leave a residue that appears unsightly and leaves the faucet always looking dirty and stained. By contrast, the hydrophobic coating promotes non-wetting - the drops will roll off and the faucet will remain clean, shiny and attractive. Mary has no idea that Moen developed this coating using a ramé-hart Model 290 goniometer / tensiometer. You probably didn't either!

 Mary steps into the shower and applies a rather large dab of Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo to her head. Like soap, shampoo acts as a surfactant - lowering the surface tension of the water used to wash the hair. This promotes binding with the natural head oil (called sebum) and helps lift and remove particles, pollen and random dust that has made a home in Mary's hair. Shampoo also contains ingredients that replace the natural sebum that coats the individual strands of hair leaving the hair with body and sheen. Mary then follows up with Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Conditioner. While the shampoo works to open the hair's cuticle to remove the gunk, it's the conditioner that seals it up to block out contaminants and lock in the nutrients that promote healthy and rejuvenated hair. The combination of shampoo and conditioner gives Mary's hair the body and looks that she really likes...and hopes the guys like it too.

Time for Mary to get dressed. She slips on a pair of Aisle brand lady's panties made from TrueTex fabric.1 TrueTex is said to be a proprietary blend of hydrophobic and hydrophilic materials which provide both wicking - to pull moisture away from the skin - and absorbent fibers to keep it from wetting top clothing. Undergarments are frequently made from cotton and rayon materials which are naturally hydrophilic. Moisture management has become quite the science. TrueTex and other engineered fabrics include various layers of fabric with varying but precise wetting behaviors in order to optimize absorption, comfort, and of course, moisture management.2

Mary returns to the bathroom to apply makeup, a daily routine for millions of women (and a few men) worldwide. Cosmetics have been around for millennia; the Greeks, the Romans, even the ancient Chinese used makeup to enhance their sex appeal and look more socially presentable. While natural materials such as starches, gelatins, and agar have long been and are still used in cosmetics to control the rheological properties, a new breed of synthetic copolymers made up of both hydrophobic as well as hydrophilic components is being used as cosmetic thickeners. Little does Mary realize it but a lot of research and development went into the products she's applying to her face. The ingredients in her makeup were developed and manufactured by a variety of companies. Among them are Gelest and Sensient Cosmetic Technologies - two companies that also use ramé-hart instruments in their product development. And to think, Mary had no idea.

Time to get dressed. Mary plans to spend some time outdoors today. She's also aware of the potential for rain. So, she slips on her Columbia Peak To Point II dress which is coated with Columbia's "Omni-Shield Advanced Repellency" for maximum hydrophobicity.3 Increasingly, makers of clothes and outdoor gear and well as footwear (more on that in a minute) are using novel coatings and treatments to make their products more hydrophobic - and in some cases even superhydrophobic. Some of these coatings use nanoparticles much like the popular aftermarket superhydrophobic coating NeverWet.

Next Mary slips on her favorite footwear, a pair of Birkenstock hydrophobic fashion boots. These shoes are factory-coated to withstand snow and rain. In addition to coatings, Birkenstock also fabricates synthetic leathers (e.g., Birkibuk and Birco-Flor) which as engineered materials can be optimized for water repellency among other desirable properties. Other shoemakers are also discovering novel ways to make their footwear more hydrophobic.

In this episode, we watched Mary get up, shower, make herself up, and get dressed. And while doing so, we encountered over a half dozen products that are engineered or otherwise optimized for a desirable wetting behavior. Imagine how many more we can discover if we spent more of the day with her. Stay to another episode in a future newsletter.

More on Trutex Fabric here.
2 See this patent for an example of moisture management fabric.
3 Check out the Columbia Women's Peak To Point II Dress here.

Happy Holidays
2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. With the prospect of a vaccine just around the corner, we're optimistic that 2021 will be a better year. We're pleased to report that several of our customers have been and are working on pharmaceutical solutions for COVID-19. In the meantime, be safe, and on behalf of the entire team here at ramé-hart instrument co., Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may you and your kin enjoy a Happy and Healthy New Year in 2021.

Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
Contact us


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