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Mechanical engineering’s condiment-bottle coating gives waste the slip

MIT $100K competition runner-up LiquiGlide developed out of Varanasi group
Ketchup slides out of a bottle that has the food-based, nontoxic LiquiGlide coating on the inside.
Caption:
Ketchup slides out of a bottle that has the food-based, nontoxic LiquiGlide coating on the inside.
Credits:
Courtesy of the Varanasi Research Group

The Varanasi Research Group, led by Associate Professor Kripa Varanasi, took a break from researching super slippery and super non-wetting coatings for equipment such as steam turbines and airplanes to present its newest invention at this year’s $100K competition: LiquiGlide, a nontoxic, nonstick, super slippery coating for the inside of condiment bottles. Made from food materials, LiquiGlide is easy to apply to food packaging and prevents stubborn condiments from sticking on their way out.

For food sauce companies — and their customers — 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.



“Our research group is mainly focused on big issues in energy, water and transportation,” Varanasi says, “but we found that bottles are no small thing, with the worldwide condiment market comprising about 17 billion bottles.”

With a market that big, small additional costs such as the 20-cent charge customers pay for the special cap on upside-down bottles can add up to billions of dollars. Just as important, eliminating those special caps can reduce the need for plastic by about 25,000 tons. LiquiGlide can save food by ensuring that none is wasted and increase recycling rates by removing all food remnants.

The project was named runner-up in the MIT $100K competition, but the team took home the Audience Choice Award — and accompanying $2,000 prize — for the consumer-friendly invention. In the weeks since, the product has garnered national media attention from outlets such as NPR, ABC News, the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN, among many others.

Along with Varanasi, the LiquiGlide team is J. David Smith, Christopher J. Love, Adam Paxson, Brian Solomon and Rajeev Dhiman.

Press Mentions

Slate

MIT startup LiquiGlide, which has developed a coating that makes the inside of a bottle slippery, has signed an agreement with the glue-maker Elmer’s, Jim Festante reports for Slate in a new video. The video highlights how the LiquiGlide coating makes it possible for liquids like ketchup, toothpaste and glue to slide right out of the bottle, reducing waste.  

New York Times

Kenneth Chang writes for The New York Times about LiquiGlide, an MIT startup that has developed a nonstick coating that allows liquids, like ketchup or glue, to slide right out of the bottle. Chang explains that LiquiGlide could have “major environmental payoffs by reducing waste.”

BetaBoston

LiquiGlide, an MIT startup that produces a slippery coating to help get substances out of bottles, has announced a partnership with glue maker Elmer’s Products, reports Nidhi Subbaraman for BetaBoston. Subbaraman explains that “LiquiGlide’s core technology is a sprayable solid-liquid double-layer,” that prevents liquids from adhering to the walls of containers.  

WBUR

MIT alumnus Dave Smith speaks with Anthony Brooks of WBUR about his company, LiquiGlide. LiquiGlide makes a substance that coats the surface on the inside of containers, reducing friction and allowing fluids to slide out more easily.

Boston Globe

A Dustin comic that appeared in The Boston Globe features research by Professor Kripa Varanasi. Varanasi’s group developed LiquiGlide, a coating that can be applied to the inside of food and condiment packaging to prevent sticking.

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