Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface

A new material called Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface (SLIPS) has been created by materials scientist Professor Joanna Aizenberg and colleagues at Harvard University.

The scientists, whose research is published in the scientific journal Nature, immobilised a "lubricating film" inside the pores of a spongelike layer of Teflon to produce a smooth and highly slippery surface.

By carefully selecting the lubricating film, the substance chemically repelled other liquids. The result can be compared to the effect of bringing together the poles of two magnets.


(Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface, or SLIPS video)

Professor Aizenberg added: "The lubricating film is locked in place so it does not mix with liquids placed on the surface. By carefully selecting the lubricant we impregnate the pores with, it means we can repel a broad spectrum of liquids.

"There are a lot of potential applications for this, but among the ones I am most excited about are use in the energy industry for making oil flow more efficiently through pipes for example.

"It also repels ice and so is not prone to icing up, which would be ideal on aircraft wings or in industrial freezer units. We could use it as an anti-graffiti surface, so paint sprayed onto a wall would just slide off."

SF writers have been preparing the way for this kind of surface for many years. In his 1965 novel Dune, Frank Herbert writes about a water-repellent surface used by the Fremen:

A splashing sounded on her left. She looked down the shadowy line of Fremen, saw Stilgar with Paul standing beside him and the watermasters emptying their load into the pool through a flowmeter...

Superb accuracy in water measurement, Jessica thought. And she noted that the walls of the meter trough held no trace of moisture after the water's passage. The water flowed off those walls without binding tension. She saw a profound clue to Fremen technology in the simple fact: they were perfectionists.

Also, in their 1974 novel The Mote in God's Eye, Niven and Pournelle describe a frictionless cup:

The bathroom - the toilet was different. Just as he had sketched it. Wrong; there wasn't any water in it. And no flush. What the hell, there was only one way to test a toilet. When he looked, the bowl was sparkling clean. He poured a glass of water into it and watched it run away without leaving a drop. The bowl was a frictionless surface. Have to mention this to Bury, he thought. There were bases on airless moons, and worlds where water, or energy for recycling it, was scarce.

Via the Telegraph; thanks to Winchell Chung at Project Rho for the tip on the story and a quote.

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