Slick Invention Can Un-Stick Your Ketchup, Toothpaste

LiquiGlide, SLIPS Technologies take advantage of 'liquid-impregnated surfaces'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2014 6:02 AM CST

Hate when you can't get the last of the toothpaste from the tube? Or when your plane is delayed so it can be de-iced? Those days may soon be over thanks to what are essentially surfaces coated with liquid. Researchers at both Harvard and MIT have taken advantage of the technology separately; in both cases, a liquid surface is attached to a solid surface lining by chemical and physical reactions. Basically, "you create a liquid on top of a solid—a nice slippery liquid interface that protects your solid," a Harvard researcher says. However, the Harvard-linked SLIPS Technologies serves to keep liquid in place, while LiquiGlide, run by a former MIT student, produces a slippery liquid surface, reports Inside Science.

As liquid can flow in narrow spaces unaffected by gravity, SLIPS manipulates surfaces to immobilize liquid. "We're really nucleating a new and original type of materials science," a researcher says. Meanwhile, LiquiGlide's CEO says its focus is similar to "putting oil and then an egg in a frying pan." The Boston Globe previously reported the company's custom coatings from edible products could have a variety of uses: Ketchup bottles could serve out the red stuff with a simple tilt, and clogs in oil pipelines could become nonexistent. In fact, by preventing water droplets from collecting on steam turbines, "you can slow down global warming," a researcher says. The company expects the first products to roll out in 2015. (In other recent kitchen inventions, this fork zaps you if you overeat, and these chopsticks detect tainted food.)

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