Consumers today seek ease of use and reduced wastage from product packaging. Smaller, lighter and more easily disposable packaging makes consumption-on-the-go easier, but also comes with the problems of wastage. Packaging, though a vital part of any industry, has certain limitations- the product loss that inevitably occurs when the packaged product sticks to the sides of a jar/bottle, and never comes out. Product clinging to the sides of the container has annoyed generations and is a problem faced by consumers of food and beverage, paint, cosmetics and even oil.
LiquiGlide is a company started by Kripa K. Varanasi, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and one of his graduate students Smith. They have come up with a solution- a coating that makes the inside of the bottle permanently wet and slippery. The product quickly slides to the nozzle or back down to the bottom. The idea is to make the inside surface slippery so product would slide back into the can instead of sticking to the lid and drying there. LiquiGlide is a nonstick “liquid impregnated” coating designed to keep surfaces permanently slick and slippery. The technology foundation allows for the creation of customized slippery surfaces with different properties depending on the application. What’s more, hundreds of different materials have been identified that can be combined to create these coatings. Each customized coating is created to meet the demands of the particular application- the methodology is flexible enough to create a spectrum of coatings that can be applied for many different uses - and still meet stringent standards for each application. The coating is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and it also has no effect at all on the quality and taste of products packaged.
LiquiGlide is the first and only permanently wet, slippery surface technology. There is no other durable solution that makes viscous liquids slide easily. It is not a conventional super-hydrophobic surface technology. A conventional super-hydrophobic surface is like a lotus leaf; it is a highly textured surface which creates a cushion of air for the product to sit on. It is a permanently wet, liquid impregnated surface which is designed to be hyper slippery, with the product sitting directly on a layer of liquid. A liquid-impregnated surface is a multi-layer surface, consisting of a customized solid texture and a liquid. The highly textured solid surface is composed of a matrix of features spaced sufficiently close to stably contain the impregnating liquid that fills in the spaces between the features. The liquid is held in place within the texture, creating a permanently slippery, liquid surface. The product is actually sliding on our liquid layer, in a liquid-to-liquid interface.
Depending on the application, the company identifies liquids that are compatible with the chemical and physical properties of the client's product. Once the company finds a suitable liquid, solid materials are selected that are promising to adhere to the client's 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, the company creates a scalable and commercially viable application process. The end result: A durable and high performing coating that meets all the requirements of our client. The company can control the speed at which liquids slide over the surface, by changing the materials or structure of the coating.
Dr. Varanasi did not set out to solve the problem of clingy glue and mayonnaise. Rather, he was thinking of larger-scale industrial challenges, like preventing ice formation on airplane wings and allowing more efficient pumping of crude oil and other viscous liquids. The duo worked out a theory to predict interactions among the surface, the lubricant and air. Essentially, the lubricant binds more strongly to the textured surface than to the liquid, and that allows the liquid to slide on a layer of lubricant instead of being pinned against the surface, and the textured surface keeps the lubricant from slipping out. The approach also allows them to vary the ingredients of the textured layer and the lubricant to fit the properties of different liquids- for food applications, the coatings are derived from edible materials. Applications for LiquiGlide extend beyond consumer packaged goods, with potential throughout the food production supply chain from start to finish. It is seeking out opportunities in the agriculture industry, allowing for better flow and reduced cost and water usage for acrochemicals like herbicides and pesticides. The company is also exploring the industrial applications originally envisioned, including coatings for petroleum storage tanks and pipelines that could not only reduce the energy needed to push materials through the pipes, but also speed cleaning of tanks with fewer chemicals. Bitumen is so viscous that the ultra heavy crude oil is often compared to peanut butter. The coating could change the industry. It could be used to ensure that pipes flow, instruments do not clog, and metals shed corrosive liquids. Originally, the researchers were looking for a way to prevent the buildup of methane hydrates that clog pipelines. The company is now looking into problems faced by those in oil transportation and storage and seeking exploration and production opportunities. In the oil and gas business, the sticky problems range from asphaltenes fouling processing equipment to sludge building up in pipes.