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Frictionless Toilet Could Save 140 Billion Liters Of Water

There are breakthroughs everywhere - even the bathroom.

"Our team has developed a robust bio-inspired, liquid, sludge- and bacteria-repellent coating that can essentially make a toilet self-cleaning," said Tak-Sing Wong, Wormley Early Career Professor of Engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

In the Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, housed within the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Research Institute, researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters.

Co-developed by Jing Wang, a doctoral graduate from Wong's lab, the liquid-entrenched smooth surface (LESS) coating is a two-step spray that, among other applications, can be applied to a ceramic toilet bowl. The first spray, created from molecularly grafted polymers, is the initial step in building an extremely smooth and liquid-repellent foundation.

"When it dries, the first spray grows molecules that look like little hairs, with a diameter of about 1,000,000 times thinner than a human's," Wang said.

While this first application creates an extremely smooth surface as is, the second spray infuses a thin layer of lubricant around those nanoscopic "hairs" to create a super-slippery surface.

Science fiction writers Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle had already worked out the usefulness of this item in their 1974 classic Mote in God's Eye:

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.
(Read more about the frictionless toilet)

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