November 14, 2011
Super-Slippery Material Could Make Ketchup Slide Out More Easily
Scientists have developed one of the most slippery materials ever made after copying the leaves from a carnivorous plant.
The material can be used as for self-cleaning surfaces that never get dirty and to coat the inside of bottles and jars to help food escape more easily.
The new material repels both water and oil based liquids, making condiments like tomato ketchup or jam slide out easily.
"It is a problem we all face — we have a bottle of sauce and we are trying to get the last bit out but nothing is happening," Professor Joanna Aizenberg, a materials scientists at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement. "If we used substance like ours to coat the inside of bottles, it would be possible to get it all out. The only problem may be that the sauce may come out a little too easily on to their food."
The team was inspired by the carnivorous plant Nepenthes, which has a slippery surface at the top of its flute-shaped leaves so insects tumble off into its digestive juices.
The team found that the plant's leaves have a spongelike texture that are infused with water, which repels the stick oils on an insects' feet.
The scientists created a "lubricating film" inside the pores of a spongelike layer of Teflon to produce a smooth and highly slippery surface.
The Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface (SLIPS) material has a rare trait called "omniphobicity," which means it can repel both water and oily materials.
The scientists said the material can repel liquids like blood, water, crude oil and jam. Ants were also unable to walk on the surface containing the material.
"There are a lot of potential applications for this, but among the ones I am most excited about are use in the energy industry for making oil flow more efficiently through pipes for example," Aizenberg said in a statement. "By carefully selecting the lubricant we impregnate the pores with, it means we can repel a broad spectrum of liquids."
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