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New Coating Gets Ketchup Out Lickety-Split

A substance developed at MIT sends viscous condiments pouring out of bottles with ease

smithsonian.com

We’ve all been there: desperately trying to shake the last few drops of ketchup or salad dressing out of the bottle, becoming more and more frustrated as the condiment stubbornly sticks to the sides and refuses to come out.

A few months ago, a group of MIT scientists led by grad student Dave Smith decided to do something a little more productive than shaking. As shown in the video above, courtesy of Fast Company, they created a remarkably slippery substance called LiquiGlide that, when applied as a coating to the inside of bottles, sends viscous condiments like ketchup pouring out in no time.

The team reports that LiquiGlide is made entirely of nontoxic, FDA-approved substances and can easily be applied to the insides of bottles made of glass, plastic and other materials. At first glance, the project seems a little frivolous—are a few drops of ketchup really worth the time of such talented researchers?—but the possible benefits go beyond reducing the annoyance of sandwich-makers and french fry-eaters.

“Everyone is always like, ‘Why bottles? What’s the big deal?’” Smith told Fast Company. “But then you tell them the market for bottles—just the sauces alone is a $17 billion market.” The research team estimates that if all sauce bottles were coated with LiquiGlide, approximates one million tons of wasted condiments would be saved from the trash annually.

How does it work? Details on the proprietary substance are hard to come by, but Smith said, “it’s kind of a structured liquid—it’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” The research team initially worked on coatings to prevent ice formation on windshields and clogs in gas lines, then realized one of the super-slippery compounds would be ideal for this entirely different use.

Last week, the product won second place in MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, and the team has already secured patents on the product. The researchers are reportedly in talks with several bottling and packaging companies, although it’s still early in the process.

Within a few years, though, we might have LiquiGlide-enhanced bottles of ketchup, mayonnaise and salad dressings on the dinner table. And why stop there? Might we see peanut butter, syrup, even honey cascading out of bottles and jars with ease? The possibilities are truly limitless.

Our advice? Get ready for this utopian future by watching a video of mayonnaise coming out of a LiquiGlide bottle:

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