Last year Sid Martin, Director of Technology at Northeast Maritime Institute
was faced with a dilemma. He had been hired to spearhead a project
bringing the latest technology to the field of Maritime Security and
test it in the field. Martin was the perfect candidate for this job.
Prior to working at NMI he was a member of the project team responsible
for the wheel bearings on the Mars Lander and in doing so became
familiar with the obstacles faced in developing products for use in
harsh environments. But the project was nearing completion and he
needed to find new ways to use his experience at the institute.
Before developing Aerospace technology Martin worked for years in
the manufacturing of semiconductors and during this time he gained both
knowledge and experience coating objects at a molecular scale. With the
sole directive of realizing the Institute’s mission to “honor the
mariner” Sid diverted his focus from maritime security to a long
stirring idea; Waterproofing Electronics.
With the backing of NMI President Eric Dawicki he began work on
techniques he learned during the time he worked in the semiconductor
industry, applied coatings to surfaces at the molecular level. Up to
this point marine electronics were separated from the corrosive and
conductive properties of salt water with the use of protective shells.
A waterproof radio for example, combines a protective shell with
plastic coating and gaskets to keep water away from sensitive
electrical components. This works fairly well provided you maintain the
watertight integrity of the unit but it’s expensive to manufacture and
maintain not to mention the extra weight and bulk it adds to the device
itself. Damage the shell or service the components in harsh conditions
and that protection is useless.
Martin’s idea was different. By merging his experience in harsh
weather design with his knowledge of semiconductors he developed a new
coating that provides direct protection to both internal and external
components of a device regardless of size. The process itself is a
closely guarded secret but results in a ultra thin yet durable
protection at the molecular level.
To test this claim we visited NMI’s workshop in Fairhaven
Massachusetts and asked him for a personal demonstration. The results
were simply astounding. Standing above a 5 gallon bucket of water
Martin picks up a working Balckberry phone and drops it straight into
the salt water. Minutes later he removes the device and makes a call
with the water still pouring out of the keypad. As if this was not
impressive enough he proceeds to pour what remains in the bucket onto
his Dell laptop computer. He then remarks, “The possibilities are
endless. Not only are the internal components protected but the CPU is
actually being cooled by the water inside the case!”
The possibilities are exciting indeed and to help convince me (as if
that was still required) he refills the bucket and begins dunking the
other items he has coated. First in was a 372 year old letter sent to
mariner from his wife, then he dunks an ipod touch and finally compares
two sets of stainless steel bolt; one exposed to salt water and the
other not. The difference was noticeable.
What’s next for Martin’s dunk tank? He replies with a wide grin, “
I’ve already tried this coating on sugar cubes, I think the next
challenge will be to coat an ice cube!”
Regardless of the next product to be tested Martin is currently
looking for companies wishing to employ this technology in the
manufacturing process. Otherwise he hopes to team up with retailers and
offer the coating as a service provided in-store. If all goes according
to plan it won’t be long until you can take your new iPhone to the pool
and drop it in just to witness the reaction of onlookers. Martin’s
goals are slighltly higher, “I’m waiting for the day a mariner finds
trouble in harsh conditions and a coated device provides a lifeline to
help. That will turn my grin into a big smile”.
Expect NMI’s Golden Shellback coatings to be available on some of
your favorite devices in the coming months. For our full Golden
Shellback Coverage click HERE.
1. Who developed this coating?
a. Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, MA USA has an engineering
group under its sister company Transportation Security Logistics. This
group worked to solve a problem of splash proofing and water proofing a
man overboard system. This coating evolved out of that product and the
need to make the device work when exposed to water.
2. What is Northeast Maritime Institute?
a. The Northeast Maritime Institute is
an educational facility for mariners. The Institute’s creed is to Honor
the Mariner. We expect that this process will help to keep mariners
3. Where is the process currently performed?
a. The process is currently performed in our laboratory in Fairhaven,
MA. The lab has the ability to perform coating in small volume exists
in this facility.
4. Can a camera be coated?
a. There is no reason a camera would not be able to be coated but it
does have challenges that make it different then some other electronic
items. We’re currently looking at the optics and how they’ll be
handled, also there are some small moving parts that we’ll have to
5. Were there other reasons this product was developed?
a. Like many people we’ve had our own phones drop into water. After
Skiing one of the inventors managed to wash two of his daughter’s cell
phones. That drove him to want to find a coating that would prevent
6. Can I get specific answers to my individual questions.
a. Yes, subscribe to the newsletter and we’ll contact you to see if you have questions.
7. When will this process be available to the public?
a. We can provide the process now, but we need to set up the
distribution system and regionalize the process. The availability is
measured in months and we expect that it will be 4-6 months before we
can say we’re fully on line. We’ll update the website on how we can do
8. What’s your favorite thing you’ve coated so far?
a. We had lots of fun coating a 100W speaker and blasting some country music in the 5 gallon bucket.
9. What aspects confuse people most about this process:
a. People get confused and think this is a spray. It isn’t, the coating needs to be applied in a piece of equipment.
b. People seem to wonder a lot about the contacts and how they’re
sealed. The contacts aren’t, the surfaces are sealed. So, water can run
in and out.
10. Why haven’t you coated any cameras?
a. We’ve been researching the cameras and the best way to handle the
lenses and shutters. We’ll be coating some digital cameras soon.