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Science Technology

Scientists Develop Super-Slippery Material 298

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Anyone who is partial to ketchup with their food will know how difficult it is to get the final dregs from the bottle but now the Telegraph reports that scientists have created one of the most slippery materials ever that promises to result in new self-cleaning surfaces that never get dirty, could be used to coat the inside of bottles and jars to help consumers get all of the food inside, or in the energy industry for making oil flow more efficiently through pipes. Professor Joanna Aizenberg, a materials scientists at Harvard University, was inspired by the carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plants, which has a highly slippery surface at the top of its flute-shaped leaves so that insects tumble down into the digestive juices contained inside. The new material, known as a Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface or SLIPS boasts a rare trait called "omniphobicity", which means it can repel both water and oily materials. "If we used substance like ours to coat the inside of bottles, it would be possible to get it all out," says Aizenberg. "The only problem may be that the sauce may come out a little too easily on to their food.""
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Scientists Develop Super-Slippery Material

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  • Aperture Science Blue Repulsion Gel.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:11AM (#38047384)

    Contraceptive compatible?

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <[moc.ivo] [ta] [sg555truk]> on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:12AM (#38047386) Homepage [] -- We all know the ending.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grumling (94709)

      Keynesian economics presented in film.

      Nice. I'll have to look for it.

  • flubber?
  • Solar Panels??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:13AM (#38047400)

    If it has good UV stability and doesn't block to much sun light; it would be great for use on solar panels that otherwise need to be cleaned in order achieve peak performance.

  • Underpants? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:13AM (#38047402)

    This opens a world of possibilities to the industry of underwear... First you don't need to iron, now you don't need to wash xD.

  • This (Score:5, Funny)

    by marcello_dl (667940) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:14AM (#38047406) Homepage Journal

    This was the first post
    but it slipped down here.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:16AM (#38047416) Homepage Journal

    plenty of politicians are made of this stuff.

  • by Coisiche (2000870) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:17AM (#38047430)

    Think of the practical joke possibilities... floors, door handles... oh colleagues' coffee mugs.

    I think the Health & Safety people are going to clamp down on this one.

    • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:28AM (#38047520) Journal
      Just wait 'till the shit passes through the fan.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the Health & Safety people are going to clamp down on this one.

      Well, I certainly hope the food industry does. Howzbout we test this stuff before we just start coating our pots and pans with the shit. (Like Telfon, ya know?)

      I, for one, am not looking forward to all my food tasting like cancer.

      • Better not grill anything then!

      • by tchdab1 (164848)

        Does anyone else see the potential for coating food containers with a brand-new, not-found-in-nature substance that no one's ever eaten or tested before?
        What could possibly go wrong?
        Oh, and the logs and analysis of early antarctic expeditions make fascinating reading.

  • Simpler approach (Score:4, Interesting)

    by marcop (205587) <marcop AT slashdot DOT org> on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:23AM (#38047480) Homepage

    For ketchup, just put the bottle upside down. Gravity will place all the ketchup at the tip of the bottle. For bottles with nozzles, simply unscrew the top to get the very last spoonful.

    Peanut butter on the other hand is more challenging. Natural peanut butter tends to flow easier so is not as much of a problem. But the generic peanut butter is quite sticky.

    • by paiute (550198)

      Peanut butter on the other hand is more challenging. Natural peanut butter tends to flow easier so is not as much of a problem. But the generic peanut butter is quite sticky.

      Just store the peanut butter upside down.

      • by Rolgar (556636)

        We store our natural peanut butter upside down so the oil is at the bottom of the jar and the solid is at the top when we open it the first time. When ready to open, we flip it over and stir for a couple of minutes until the consistency is even. It seems to stay consistent for as long as the peanut butter lasts, which is usually less than 3 days in our house. A little inconvenient, but worth the effort to have food that tastes real.

    • Put it in the microwave upside down on 20-30% power in 30 second increments. It will melt the peanut butter and it'll flow.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      Put the peanut butter jar in the microwave for 3 seconds. The remains will pour out then harden when it cools.

    • Forget all the condiments, what really needs different packaging is toothpaste. The current solution is wasteful and a major PITA. Toothpaste should be sold in big syringes (think caulk gun) that go into wall-mounted holders in the bathroom. Give it a crank, some toothpaste comes out. Then it's easy, no tube-rolling crap involved, and a toothpaste cylinder could last over a year - much more eco-friendly and easier to recycle than a shitload of dumb little tubes.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by korgitser (1809018) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:26AM (#38047502)

    ...what happens when this super slippery meets that super sticky gecko tape []. Logic bomb?

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <> on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:30AM (#38047542)

    Couldn't you use something like this to improve the efficiency of submarines, or perhaps aircraft?

    • by grumling (94709)

      Exactly. Practical uses include getting catsup out of the bottle? really, that's it? So my dad doesn't have to leave empty (to all but his standard) balanced on their lids so he can get that last french fry's worth of condiment?

      Even if the stuff doesn't take well to heat, put it in barrings. The main source of heat in barrings is friction, so if this stuff works as well as they say, it will should keep.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @09:47AM (#38048112)

        Bearings, not barrings. Bearings don't slip. Bushings do. Bearings fail from wear caused by the sticking and unsticking of the rollers on the races. A little of the friction on aircraft is from skin drag, but much more is from the bumpiness of the surface above the thousandths, form drag and interference drag. Submarines and surface vessels might benefit greatly from it, but as much from preventing barnacles and crap from sticking. If you've never scraped a hull, you don't understand. Windmills are laminar flow creatures which might benefit from this, if they stay clean. The guy with the solar panel notion might be onto something.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          I heard about this on Quirks and Quarks on CBC [] (not often they beat Slashdot to a story). The big use of this on aircraft would be to prevent ice from sticking to the wings, which is a big safety hazard.
        • by radtea (464814)

          Submarines and surface vessels might benefit greatly from it, but as much from preventing barnacles and crap from sticking.

          That was my thought as well, although I'm afraid the guy who pointed out that nothing touted on /. as the next great thing ever comes to market is correct. It would in fact be worth going through the /. archives to precisely quantify just how few "on the market in the next three-to-five years" predictions come true. My bet is fewer than 1%, possibly as low as 0.

    • by Madman (84403)

      Absolutely, however I suspect they may run into durability issues.

    • by afidel (530433)
      Like the example of pipelines from the article this misses the fact that the primary cause of drag in such situations is not the surface roughness of the material but rather the turbulence of the boundary layer between the surface and the laminar flow. In fact a rougher surface can actually improve flow performance by decreasing the turbulence (ie a golfball).
      • by mosb1000 (710161)

        The reason it works for golf-balls and aircraft is it reduces form drag. Obviously, if you are talking about a pipeline, there is no form drag and therefore no benefit. Here is an article [] that explains the phenomena in good detail.

        Likewise, when you're talking about streamlined shapes, boundary layer separation is not the main cause of drag. Rather the main cause of drag is friction (or skin drag). Making the surface more slippery would help reduce friction, though I suspect only if viscosity of the fluid i

      • by jbengt (874751) on Monday November 14, 2011 @10:47AM (#38048742)
        You are misinformed. (about pipelines, not about golf balls.)
        The pressure drop rate in a pipeline depends on velocity, the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces (aka Reynolds number), and the ratio of the dimension of pipe surface roughness to pipe diameter (aka e/D). For relatively low velocity, low density, high viscosity flows the pipe surface roughness does not matter. For relatively high velocity, high density, low viscosity flows the pressure drop is a proportional to the square of the velocity times length divided by diameter and function of the log of e/D (greater pressures with higher roughness). Investigate the Darcy Weisbach equation [] and formulas for estimating friction factors []
        Still, even if proven to be cheap, I imagine this might have limited application in pipelines, since age, corrosion, and erosion take their toll in actual service.
  • by Madman (84403) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:34AM (#38047562) Homepage

    Why re-invent the wheel, just skin a few politicians.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:41AM (#38047604)

    "SLIPS" sounds boring. Plus, it's the wrong word type - it look like a verb, but it's trying to be a noun. Not going to take off.

    I propose the name "lawyerite", after the second-slipperiest material known to mankind.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      They could boost sales even more by adding "Plenty of lawyers were harmed to make this material".
  • Neverwet (Score:5, Informative)

    by data2 (1382587) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:43AM (#38047616)

    Have a look at [] They also have some amazing case studies showing off what the material can do, and where some use cases are.

  • "It also repels ice and so is not prone to icing up, which would be ideal on aircraft wings..."

    Seems like a bad idea if anyone has to walk on the wings for maintenance.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:49AM (#38047648) Journal
      If you look at the top surface of an aircraft's wings(large airliners anyway) there are a variety of marked walkways with various messages to the effect of "ONLY WALK INSIDE THE LINES. NO, NOT THERE YOU MORON!" in large print, presumably to keep somebody from putting a foot through something delicate or falling off and cracking on the tarmac.

      I assume that, in this use case, they'd coat the rest of the wing and either ignore or otherwise deal with the service walkways.
      • Unfortunately that area (generally around the center of the wings) is also where most of the ice builds up...

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:50AM (#38047662) Journal
    Not only does this extraordinarily slippery substance have a wide variety of possible uses, it can only be created by grinding and distilling PR flacks and advertising executives!
  • The Teflon effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:53AM (#38047682)
    So... if this material is so slippery, how are they going to get it to stick to the surfaces they want to make more slippery?
    This is sort of like "I've just invented an acid so strong it will eat through ANYTHING! It's right over there in that bottle... oh shit!"
    • So... if this material is so slippery, how are they going to get it to stick to the surfaces they want to make more slippery?

      Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface. I'm no expert on the subject, but I think it might be a liquid (which is slippery) that is infused into a surface which is porous.

      • by Shotgun (30919)

        Very much like oilite bearings.

        Granular brass is pressed into the shape of the bearing. Oil is then forced through it, infusing all the little nooks and voids that are left by the pressing process.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      Exactly. There is no mention of how they attach it to something to begin with. Can it only be applied to "low-surface-energy structured materials (such as porous Teflon membrane)? Is it only effective on liquids? It would be nice to know if one could use it "paint" surfaces to protect them from insects, rust, mold, etc.

  • Griswold! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MrMonty (366322) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:57AM (#38047718)

    Be careful if you're thinking of applying this to your snow sled.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:57AM (#38047720)

    I found a video of one of the first tests of this material. They sprayed it on the bottom of a sled so they could measure how much faster it could get down the hill. The results are fairly impressive [].

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Monday November 14, 2011 @09:05AM (#38047788)
    I put "rainX" on my cars' windshield and the visor of my motorcycle helmet. Maybe this material will be usable for that sort of application as well? Yes, UV light is bad, but I have to re-apply rainX every week or two as well, so it might be an improvement.
  • just think if your car was painted with it, or the inside & outside of your house, cleanup would be lots easier
    • by ledow (319597)

      Paint your car-tyres with it and you'll never have to clean them again and they'll wear much more slowly and give you a boost in fuel economy due to reduce friction!

  • imagine how effective this will be as it begins to coat the insides of the intestines, not to mention the lungs.

  • If you spray this material on the inside of cans and bottles, does it allow for cost effective recycling still? I can imagine this might be an issue increasing the cost of packaging more then is being saved by the contents.

  • by gadget junkie (618542) <> on Monday November 14, 2011 @10:33AM (#38048562) Journal
    I distinctly recall that in the original Dune novel, [], Paul Atreides is impressed by the frictionless containers used by the Freemen to hold water, and Dune was written in 1965. Nice to see reality catch up to science fiction.
  • scientists designed a strategy for creating slippery surfaces by infusing a nano/microstructured porous material with a lubricating fluid.

    Can the lubricating fluid be controlled? If so, then perhaps the slipperyness could be controlled.

    For example... have a non-slippery floor most of the time (somewhat safer) then moisten it when cleaning it. (Those "Slippery when wet" signs would then actually mean what they say.)

    Or how about (as others have suggested) applying it to solar panels (if it doesn't block UV rays, etc.). But when needing to walk on them for maintenance you wear shoes that repel the fluid. That would cause the shoes to bypass

  • "The only problem may be that the sauce may come out a little too easily on to their food.""

    I love how this is shoved at the bottom, like it's some minor problem. I highly doubt this stuff is safe to ingest, please keep it out of my containers |:

  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Monday November 14, 2011 @10:45AM (#38048706)
    What about using this to line the inside of engine blocks to reduce the friction between the pistons/ piston rings and the block? Sort of an improved version of Fiber Reinforced Metal (FRM) lining that Honda has been using in most of their DOHC VTEC engines.
    • Edit: Actually, FRM wasn't just limited to DOHC VTEC engines, and not all DOHC VTEC engines contained FRM sleeves. The following engines do: -B21A1 -H22A1 -H22A4 -H22A -H23A -F20C -C32B(NSX)
  • by PPH (736903) on Monday November 14, 2011 @11:10AM (#38048994)

    Silvio Berlusconi could have used this last week.

  • by snoop.daub (1093313) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:23PM (#38050500)

    Just a couple points I want to make:

    - Nowhere in the paper is there anything about using this stuff in ketchup bottles. I'm sure the researchers seized on this when they got interviewed as a simple way to explain lyophobicity to a general audience, the effect of which was to make "getting all the ketchup out of the bottle" the only thing anyone remembers. Typical.

    - As for the significance of the research, there has been a ton of work in the last, oh, say 10-20 years on superhydrophobic surfaces, which have texture on the scale of a few nm that prevents water or other high surface tension liquids from penetrating into these tiny cracks. The water drops energetically prefer to remain as spherical as possible and so the liquid is repelled. This doesn't work with low surface tension liquids like light oils because it would rather penetrate inside the texturing than stay in a roughly spherical drop. The neat advance in this work is the addition of a low surface tension liquid which is introduced into the textured Teflon or fluorinated silane surface and repels both water and oil. They can use lots of different chemicals for the liquid, so as they continue the research they will find that some resist high heat, others are bio-inert, etc etc. so there are many possible applications.

Breadth-first search is the bulldozer of science. -- Randy Goebel