What’s up with LiquiGlide?

LiquiGlide, the super-slippery lubricant developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists and that makes anything – syrup, ketchup, paint – slide right out of the bottle so not a drop is wasted, created an internet deluge of attention when news of it broke some two years ago. What has happened since and when will it be commercialised?

THE first look at LiquiGlide was how it could be applied to a ketchup bottle that no longer had to be violently shaken to get the condiment out onto the French fries. That might’ve seemed like an over-the-top solution to a minor inconvenience, but the development team’s ambition was much greater: It estimated the coating could eliminate roughly one million tons of food waste every year.

Now, the start-up is taking LiquiGlide one step further, developing the coating for a range applications, from lotion and toothpaste tubes to paint canisters and oil pipelines. The potential applications extend to almost every industry.

Dave Smith, the PhD candidate behind the novel substance, dropped out of MIT, incorporated LiquiGlide, and has built up a team of nearly 20 mechanical engineers and nano-technologists, reports

His company is now negotiating deals with the largest consumer packaged goods companies to bring LiquiGlide to everything from toothpaste and syrup to beer, with the first commercial products expected to launch in 2015. He’s also exploring how the technology could be applied to a new range of industries, including medical, manufacturing, and even transportation products.

LiquiglideSmith and company won’t say much about the formula behind LiquiGlide. Carsten Boers, the company’s president, compares the texture to a sponge, which, when “impregnated with liquid,” acts as a lubricating agent.

Applied to a surface, the LiquiGlide coating will create a non-stick buffer between, say, a plastic bottle and mayonnaise, so the normally sludgy condiment “just floats right onto the sandwich,” says Smith, who boasts that LiquiGlide can work with any viscous liquid, paste, or gel.

Because LiquiGlide is odourless, tasteless, and composed of only FDA-approved materials, the team envisions applications for all sorts of household goods. The company is already developing ways to make it easier for consumers to pour out paint, laundry detergent, and even glue from traditional containers.

That won’t just reduce waste, it will also reduce costs and help mitigate environmental damage. LiquiGlide estimates, for example, that American throw out roughly 7% to 16% of the detergent per bottle because it’s hard to get to – roughly $1 to $2 of value. With LiquiGlide, however, the syrupy substance won’t stick to the sides – it will flow right out.

It could also change how goods are packaged, since many of the most complicated and expensive parts of containers – pump mechanisms, closures – are designed to force a product’s contents out, and are now unnecessary with LiquiGlide.

“You often have 50% of the packaging weight in the cap, so that’s a lot of wasted energy and resources right there,” says Boers. Smaller package sizes, he adds, will lower distribution transportation costs and thus lower fuel emissions too.

But the kitchen is just the beginning. The company envisions greater potential in putting LiquiGlide in factories. “If we can make mayonnaise slide out of a bottle, in a very similar fashion, we can make [another material] slide through a pipeline, or a filling machine, or a mixing bucket,” Boers explains….. Read the full article and see the product in action


Additional reading:

MIT’s freaky non-stick coating keeps ketchup flowing