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LiquiGlide coating means you'll never waste a drop of ketchup again

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May 23, 2012

A research group at MIT has developed LiquiGlide, a slippery, non-toxic coating that makes...

A research group at MIT has developed LiquiGlide, a slippery, non-toxic coating that makes sure every last drop of any condiment flows right out of the bottle

It's one of the most common and infuriating dining problems everyone encounters: getting ketchup to pour smoothly out of bottle and onto your plate. You've probably heard a number of solutions from "tap the 57" to "spin the bottle between your hands," but even those methods can still drown your fries in sauce in the end. Luckily, science - or rather, a research group working at MIT - has finally taken notice and concocted an impressive solution. By coating the inside of any bottle with the slippery LiquiGlide coating, anything from ketchup to mayonnaise to jam flows right out like water, barely leaving a smudge behind.

The Varanasi Research Group spent two months working out of a MIT lab to develop the revolutionary substance, which was originally intended as an anti-icing or anti-clogging coating. But shifting the focus to food bottles wasn't just to make life easier on people eating at greasy diners. Aside from the obvious benefit of no longer struggling with a troublesome condiment, the coating also ensures that much less food ends up in the garbage from being stuck to the bottle. The research team estimates about 1 million tons of food could be saved each year if every bottle used LiquiGlide, and that's just counting the sauces. The stickiness of most condiments also means that plastic squeeze bottles require a larger cap to work. Getting rid of the caps could save 25,000 tons of plastic each year.

So far, the team has yet to find a type of container that can't be coated and has found LiquiGlide gives any surface a unique feeling of being firm, but slippery. This quality makes foods that would normally stick to the sides of a container just slide right out as if they were touching nothing at all. The group is remaining tight-lipped on exactly which substances were used to create it, but has revealed that it is completely comprised of food-safe materials that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Fortunately, LiquiGlide has already gained the attention of several bottle companies, thanks in no small part to it taking home second place in the MIT $100k Entrepreneurship Competition, beating out 213 other teams. Even though the focus has been on food packaging, the group hopes its coating could have other applications in oil pipes, gas lines and windshields, among other things.

You really have to watch the video below showing how ketchup moves inside a bottle that's been treated with LiquiGlide to see what a difference the coating makes. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking someone just took a bottle of milk and digitally turned it red.

Source: LiquiGlide via Fast Company

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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17 Comments

I'm curious if this coating can be applied to nylon fabric and how durable it would be, could be useful for camping equipment.

adamtx
23rd May, 2012 @ 11:18 pm PDT

Yes, finally woo hooo

livin_the_dream
23rd May, 2012 @ 11:37 pm PDT

could be used for hydro-dynamic coatings for ships. decrease friction in the water.

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer
24th May, 2012 @ 09:57 am PDT

How are the bottled food manufacturers going to like this? One million tons of product saved from waste means one million tons less that will be sold if this coating is univerally adopted.

What, if any, will be the effect on container recycling? Will glass and plastic that has been treated with this substance still be able to be re-processed?

Finally, does this mean that future generations will be denied the opportunity to learn the old mealtime rhyme:

"Shake oh shake the ketchup bottle,

first none'll come and then a lot'll."?

A'Tuin
24th May, 2012 @ 10:53 am PDT

Does it effect recycling?

abe
24th May, 2012 @ 11:01 am PDT

Am skeptical on this . remember other special coatings that are supposed to be safe but eventually they were not. and this is food. maybe this is better in other things like cars doors or buildings so dirt wont stick.

Leonard Ana Form
24th May, 2012 @ 07:37 pm PDT

A'Tuin wrote:

"How are the bottled food manufacturers going to like this? One million tons of product saved from waste means one million tons less that will be sold if this coating is univerally adopted."

That one is easy, they will increase the cost of the product 5%, decrease the size of the packaging 10%, and end up making 14% more revenue. Then it's a game to see if they get positive ROI on the equipment before the whole industry decides to copy and remove the differentiation.

This certainly falls in the "making better mousetraps" category, unlike the foil/plastic sauce packet which was more in the "new paradigms for controlling mice" category. Very cool, but it's not going to change the fact that I'm getting sauce in a bottle, although I will like it if I don't have to rinse before recycling.

Speaking of recycling, that was a great point, we also have to wait for it to undergo (potentially endless) testing before we can be sure that it does not flake, chip, degrade, etc.

If it truly is safe, you can bet it will cross paths with Rule 34 at some point, my bet is within 6 months of commercial availability.

Rich Brumpton
24th May, 2012 @ 09:37 pm PDT

Yes how safe is it? That's a big question.

The Hoff
24th May, 2012 @ 09:40 pm PDT

updated comment, looks like this is engineered out of FDA approved nontoxic materials, not sure exactly how they managed that, but it looks like it might actually be fairly safe...

Rich Brumpton
24th May, 2012 @ 09:43 pm PDT

"How are the bottled food manufacturers going to like this? One million tons of product saved from waste means one million tons less that will be sold if this coating is universally adopted. "

I don't think that amount has any meaning to the industry. When I empty a bottle it has a very small amount left even if I am not desperate.

But they could,

1. Raise the price a penny which would probably offset that amount by millions.

2. Make a slightly smaller bottle.

3. (and my favorite) redesign the bottle shapes to save storage space, thus reducing transportation cost. There should be no need for long, round, tapered jars. They can be short and cubic.

MikeFromHC
24th May, 2012 @ 10:28 pm PDT

Olympic swimmers would be very interested in this coating. It could work wonders when applied to the swimmers' body, or their competitor's arms.

MrGadget
25th May, 2012 @ 12:30 am PDT

Seeing as MIT is a State University, and are known for many, many innovations, I am curious as to what happens to the monetary procceeds. Pretty sure a degree from Mit doesn't come cheap. Are these monitizations bringing down the cost of Public Education?

Burnerjack
25th May, 2012 @ 12:42 pm PDT

not very original considering many companies have already products like this on the market.

I prefer this one by Ross NanoTechnology



sukatash
25th May, 2012 @ 12:51 pm PDT

Burnerjack, "MIT is a State University"? What does that mean? MIT is a private college. They're not affiliated with Massachusetts.

sukatash, there are plenty of superhydrophobic coatings using siloxanes, fluoropolymers or PTFE, among other things. The problem is they're not cheap nor are they FDA approved for contact with foodstuffs.

Leonard Ana Form, The Hoff, read the article. "The group is remaining tight-lipped on exactly which substances were used to create it, but has revealed that it is completely comprised of food-safe materials that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration." It's safe. If they had made new compounds with previously existing chemicals, they would no longer be FDA approved.

Gadgeteer
26th May, 2012 @ 07:35 am PDT

No matter what, the chemicals which make up the coating will manage to migrate into whatever food is in the bottle. Or contaminate the environment when the bottle is tossed. Now the question is, what are those chemicals and how safe are they?

Rufus Frazier
7th June, 2012 @ 07:47 pm PDT

Combining things that individually are safe can make an unsafe compound.

For example. The components of gunpowder, "black" or smokeless. Individually they're nothing much but in combination can explode.

If this liquiglide stuff becomes available in a consumer applicable form, it'll put Rain-X out of business. Coat entire vehicles with it, no more need for car washing soap. Just hit it with a hose should any dirt or bird droppings happen to stay on.

I wonder what it would do to air drag on vehicles and aircraft?

Gregg Eshelman
11th June, 2012 @ 02:05 pm PDT

I would like to coat the inside of my toilet bowl with this stuff.

DennisL
4th July, 2012 @ 10:31 am PDT
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