Watch This: Non-Stick Coating Keeps Ketchup Flowing & Airplane Wings Free of Ice

By Sarah Zhang | May 23, 2012 12:15 pm

Let’s face it, ketchup bottles suck. When you get down to an almost empty the bottle, plastic ones burp and splat all over your clothes, and glass ones have you awkwardly whacking the “57″ on the Heinz bottle. That’s why this video of ketchup sliding effortlessly with a tip wrist is so impressive—even surreal.

This little bit of magic is the effect of LiquiGlide, a superslippery coating developed by physicists at MIT. The lab headed by Kripa Varanasi initially began researching coatings that could prevent clogs in deep sea oil pipes and ice from sticking to airplane wings. Other research groups have also come up with nonstick coatings that follow the same broad principle: the coating is actually a thin layer of liquid, which allows things to slip right off.

Getting the coating into ketchup bottles meant an extra hurdle because the materials had to be food safe. The scientists are keeping mum about what the coating is actually made of—a patent is in the works—but they promise it’s all FDA-approved materials.

And if you prefer your fries in the Dutch style, don’t worry: LiquiGlide handles mayonnaise just as well.

[via Fast Company]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
  • plutosdad

    Except if i recall correctly, Heinz has quite deliberately not made their bottles pour faster. People have come up with other ideas and I heard Heinz doesn’t want them, because making it look thick and slow is part of their product attractiveness. Maybe that is just urban legend, but I imagine since other technology already exists (bottle shape, etc) and they refuse to use it, there may be something to it.

    And looking at that video, I understand why. It just looks gross.

  • Jockaira

    Actually this is a great idea for many products, food or not. Getting the last few drabs out of containers would make more efficient use of global resources and save consumers a few pennies for each container. Granted the savings might be small, but over the long term, they would add up and be a genuine advantage for those on a limited budget.

    Product waste should be cut to an absolute minimum and reduce the large amounts of otherwise usable food and other products consigned to land-fills. Additionally, containers treated in this way would be cleaner for recycling and encourage the consumer to carry the cleaner containers to recycling centers, thus keeping those containers out of the land-fills.

    It’s such a good idea that I’m sure it will never happen. Witness the withdrawel of container caps allowing minute metering of product such as Ipana toothpaste’s “stingy” cap from the fifties, and more recently, the variable flow cap used by Dawn detergent. Other examples abound. What they have in common is reduced usage of product which impacts negatively on the producers’ profits. It would probably take compulsory legislation to enable wide-spread use of this non-stick coating.

    (Note: Recently I’ve noticed that Dawn’s producers have adjusted the viscosity of their detergent so that it is thinner and flows more readily and copiously. A great way to boost profits.)

  • Justin

    @Jockaira
    This will only save resources if the extra amount of product it allows you to use takes more energy/resources to make than that consumed adding the coating itself. Although, I like the idea of using it to remove the residue from the trash/recycling cycle.

    I imagine coatings vary quite a lot in terms of energy costs so while I can’t be positive which way this will fall, I would bet for most products (cheap things like ketchup or soap) it isn’t worth it.

    Except of course for the marketing and convenience angle. I bet a lot of people would pay a ~2% premium for this.

  • MegamanXGold

    With containers like this, forget recycling them in a blue bin. Rinse it out, take it back to the grocer, and refill it with your favourite brand. Most people know the most expensive part of condiments are the containers they come in. Where the companies might want to adopt this idea is the realization that they could still charge almost as much for that refill, to downplay the cost of the actual container. Helping the environment while saving a ton of costs.

  • Walter Baltruchi

    According to LiquiGlide’s website, the product works on mustard too!
    http://www.liqui-glide.com

  • Mark

    A product like this, if it could retain contact with a surface that is submerged, could save millions of dollars in maintenance for ships with barnacles, pipes and valves with zebra mussels and other underwater structures that become coated with sticky life forms.

  • Curtis

    If this can be used to prevent aircraft airframe icing it would be a smash hit in the aviation market. As a private pilot in the northern part of the US icing is my biggest frustration. Most people don’t realize that you can’t fly through clouds at altitude without all the moisure depositing as ice. It can be freezing at altitude, your airplane stops flying, and you crash/die, even though it may be 60-70 degrees on the ground. If a simple coating could provide a low cost solution it would be a massive breakthrough.

    Today generally only multi-million doallar planes (like airliners) with massivly expensive airborne anti-ice systems are currently approved to fly through clouds

  • Georg

    Non-dutch
    Europeans know that ketchup is the Red Indians revenge,
    and majonaise is made from pus.

  • RJD

    The FDA approving a new substance backed by patents owned by massive industrial wealth released without extensive field trials is not re-assuring. I can just imagine the “surprise” coming 10 to 15 years from now when they just begin to deny the “new discovered” dangers. I wonder if it will come to be known as “slippery BPA”. Maybe not, but FDA approval does little to relieve the concern.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    All the chemicals are already approved. OK
    Let us take a walk through chemistry park.
    High nitrogen fertilizer
    +
    diesel fuel
    +
    a couple additives (not named for obvious reasons)
    =
    Bomb.
    All legal to own and obtain.

    Combinations must be examined.

  • John

    As far as its use in the food industry: What happens when this “liqui-glide” gets into the body? Can the manufacturer or inventors give in writing that the coating will cause no harm, in the short and long term? Unless they can do that it is clear they are not sure of the consequences. Let us tread carefully.

  • Steve

    Companies are not interested in having consumers us all of the product in the bottle–just enough to satisfy the consumer. Have you ever noticed that the consumer is “tricked” into using more laundry detergent? Washers typically have settings for small, medium, and large loads. The newer caps on the liquid bottles have 3 lines: the bottom one for medium loads, the middle one for large loads, and the top one–well I guess its a donation to Procter and Gamble and the sewer treatment plants. It would be trivial to simply add to the instructions to use a little more for a dirtier load while not having an extra measuring line for it.

    The same thing is true about toothpaste. Have you ever used just a tiny dab of toothpaste? It works pretty much as well as the two inch squeeze that goes the length of the bristles and halfway back across that they show on every commercial.

  • DM

    I wonder if it could somehow be used to reduce or prevent plaque buildup on arteries to prevent strokes? Maybe coating your teeth with it would reduce plaque and bad breath. Coating dishes with it to help reduce water usage in cleaning them especially after family gatherings. Maybe coating the inside of oil pipelines would allow more efficient delivery. What about Olympic swimmers using it? I think I’ll invest in it as soon as stock in it begins to be sold. Does anyone know if shares can be purchased now?

  • tall blue ape

    They need to coat toilet bowls with this stuff.

  • Jape

    All those worrying about the chemicals and their cost – it looks like the bottle was simply pre-sprayed with olive oil. While this may not be the case, its an indication that this doesnt have to contain polytetraflourodibenzaldydediene. Lets give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
    Yes, the real skepticism belongs with the marketing/financial heads who will put profits ahead of the benefits. And that will continue as long as you and me continue to go along with the herd. While I wont be going to the store for refills anytime soon, I wouldnt mind buying a bucket with a spigot and refilling it myself at home. The solution is to sell the coated bottles, and let consumers then buy wholesale condiments in buckets, store them in the basement, and refill these small containers for use in the kitchen. People selling the bottles might also want to sell a syringe or something to refill the bottles with. Perfect as a telemarketing subject: “But Wait! Buy now and get two additional bottles, FREE!”
    We really have to change our activities on this planet, because if we dont, there wont be any plastic, wont be any ketchup. I know republicans cant stand the idea of using energy-efficient appliances and refilling condiment bottles like their sainted Grandma would have done in the golden age of yesteryear, but if we dont glide down to a better level, we are going to crash.

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