The days of wasting condiments, toothpaste and other products that stubbornly stick to the sides of the bottle or package are coming to an end thanks to a new coating developed by MIT researchers. The LiquiGlide spinoff has signed a deal with Orkla (a Norwegian company) that will allow them to use the new coating in mayonnaise bottles. If everything works fine, we can expect it to move on to other products.
Developed in 2009 by engineers Kripa Varanasi and David Smith, LiquiGlide is a liquid-impregnated coating that acts as a constantly slippery barrier between a surface and a viscous liquid. Apply it to a ketchup bottle for example, and there will be no more annoying ketchup stuck to the edges of the bottle – you can now enjoy all of it.
But this coating will do more than just spare you an annoyance – it can actually have a significant environmental impact by reducing waste, eliminating expensive caps, shrinking package size, increasing energy efficiency and decreasing the overall carbon footprint. But this could change even the very nature of the products we use; some products have implemented a specific thickness specifically to ensure that they will slide out from the bottle/package – without this need, they could reinvent and innovate not only their packaging, but also their formula.
“Since LiquiGlide’s coatings allow any viscous liquid, even gel or paste, to slide easily out of the container, consumer brands have the opportunity to innovate with the formula of their products. Lotions can be made thicker and detergents can be made of higher concentrates, allowing for the size of the packaging to shrink without sacrificing value to the consumer. Smaller packaging would mean more product could fit in each shipment, resulting in less transport cost and fuel emissions since fewer shipments would be necessary,” the company writes.
The figures support their cause: billions of dollars are thrown away because stuff gets stuck to the packaging. Up to 25% of all lotion, 16% of detergents and 13% of toothpaste gets stuck this way, which amounts to enormous quantities.
“It has huge potential in terms of critical sustainability,” Varanasi says.
But mayo is just the first stop for them – they plan to slowly expand throughout the food sector and then to cosmetics. The startup, which just entered the consumer-goods market, is courting deals with numerous producers of foods, beauty supplies, and household products.
“Our coatings can work with a whole range of products, because we can tailor each coating to meet the specific requirements of each application,” Varanasi added.
But he hinted that they have plans even for the oil industry: they plan to fight buildup in oil and gas pipelines, which can cause corrosion and clogs that reduce flow, accounting for massive loses every year.
“Interfaces are ubiquitous,” he says. “We want to be everywhere.”
You can find out more about their technology and their plans by checking out the FAQ section on their website.