Amazing Coating For Bottles’ Interiors Lets Ketchup Flow Like Water
Posted by Xeno on May 23, 2012
When it comes to those last globs of ketchup inevitably stuck to every bottle of Heinz, most people either violently shake the container in hopes of eking out another drop or two, or perform the “secret” trick: smacking the “57″ logo on the bottle’s neck. But not MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith. He and a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists at the Varanasi Research Group have been held up in an MIT lab for the last two months addressing this common dining problem.
The result? LiquiGlide, a “super slippery” coating made up of nontoxic materials that can be applied to all sorts of food packaging–though ketchup and mayonnaise bottles might just be the substance’s first targets. Condiments may sound like a narrow focus for a group of MIT engineers, but not when you consider the impact it could have on food waste and the packaging industry. “It’s funny: Everyone is always like, ‘Why bottles? What’s the big deal?’ But then you tell them the market for bottles–just the sauces alone is a $17 billion market,” Smith says. “And if all those bottles had our coating, we estimate that we could save about one million tons of food from being thrown out every year.” …
As Smith describes it, LiquiGlide is a surface that’s unique because it’s “kind of a structured liquid–it’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” It works with many types of packaging–glass, plastic–and can be applied in any number of ways, including spraying the coating onto the inside of bottles. Now, thick sauces that would normally move like sludge seem to just fall out of LiquiGlide-coated bottles, as if they were suspended in space. “It just floats right onto the sandwich,” Smith says.
One of the most significant challenges his team faced was making sure the coating was food safe, meaning his team could only work with materials the FDA had approved. “We had a limited amount of materials to pick from,” Smith says. “I can’t say what they are, but we’ve patented the hell out of it.”…