LiquiGlide is a revolutionary super-slippery coating platform that allows cosmetic products like shampoo, conditioner, and lotion and thick sauces and condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, jelly, and even honey to slide easily out of their bottles. What may seem like a trivial application is actually a $100+ billion industry worldwide. Other applications are foreseen in energy, desalination, transportation and manufacturing.
For food sauce companies, easy removal of condiments is a constant challenge. Most people have experienced the frustration that comes with struggling to expel a condiment such as ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise with furious shaking, messy rummaging or pure brute force. Now, a simple tilt of the hand sends condiments sliding out.
LiquiGlide was invented at MIT and is a patents-pending technology platform. LiquiGlide is the commercial entity that is taking this technology to market. In the Varanesi Lab in Cambridge, MA, custom coatings are developed against client specifications.
Working only with FDA-approved materials to create the substance, MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith and the team at MIT’s Varanasi Research Group created the unique material that he calls “kind of a structured liquid—it’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid. Our research group is mainly focused on big issues in energy, water and transportation, but we found that bottles are no small thing, with the worldwide condiment market comprising about 17 billion bottles.”
The coating is made up of different materials, depending on the application. Firstly liquids are identified that are compatible with the chemical and physical properties of the product. Once a suitable liquid is found, solid materials are selected that are promising to adhere to the surface and that will form a suitable porous structure. The porous solid entraps the liquid through capillary forces. These forces are sufficient to hold the liquid in place against forces >50g. Once the prototype is in place a scalable and commercially viable application process is created.
The speed at which liquids slide over the surface is controllable by changing the materials or structure of the coating.
The team has been working for years on a material that could be used for anti-icing airplane wings (ice behaves similarly to a viscous liquid) or preventing clogs in oil pipelines. This sparked the idea of putting it in food bottles. It could be great just for its slippery properties. Most applications have a much longer time to market. By 2014 it is expected that the first consumer products will launch with LiquiGlide coatings.
The industrial applications are numerous. Putting LiquiGlide into processing lines could help prevent clogs, increase efficiency, and reduce cleaning and maintenance time. The substance could be applied to condensers in power plants and thereby improve efficiency by increasing the shedding of water droplets. Power lines or refrigeration units could be coated with the material to prevent ice build up.
Other slippery surfaces
These slippery surfaces work for some liquids,
although they are not as versatile or durable as LiquiGlide.
Super smooth solid surface that causes liquids to roll on contact
Highly porous solid surface that creates an air cushion for liquids to slide on