By Dr. Russell Chianelli, Materials Research and Technology Institute, The University of Texas at El Paso
Many of us have wondered over the amazing Pitcher Plant, a plant that causes insects to slide in to a trap where they are digested.1 Joanna Aizenberg and her colleagues at Harvard University have synthesized a material that mimics the properties of the Pitcher Plant trap. The material is a Teflon sponge impregnated with a water-repellant and oil-repellant lubricating liquid. The materials, called SLIPS, are self-cleaning, self-healing and have the ability to be made transparent. SLIPS have many potential applications, many of which involve energy savings. For example, ship coatings could reduce friction and thus reduce fuel consumption. Defrosting refrigerators that are clogged with icy walls wastes energy and time. SLIP-coated refrigerator walls could eliminate this problem.
Slip-sliding away to make SLIPS. Aizenberg’s team impregnates a porous network of Teflon nanofibers (gray) with a water- and oil-repellent lubricating liquid (blue).