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How difficult is it to sink this simple metal structure?

Answer: All but impossible.

Just imagine — in the future, your smartphone could be built out of a metal that will cause it to float if you drop it in water.

That’s the general idea behind a new metal designed by researchers at the University of Rochester. Inspired by certain types of insects that can float on water by trapping air with their legs or bodies, the metal traps to make it buoyant when submerged.

First, the team created two small metal disks that were extremely water repellent (also known as superhydrophobic) on one side. They then attached the two disks in a sandwich, close together but not touching, with the superhydrophobic sides facing inward. After that they ran tests to determine the ideal amount of space to put between the two disks for trapping enough air to cause the whole contraption to float.

What’s more, the researchers found that the air would remain trapped even after being submerged consistently for two months. The structure also remained floating even when they punctured it with holes, which could prove revolutionary for boat-making if it can be scaled.

Kate is a senior copy editor in Northern California. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in professional writing from the University of California, Davis.