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SLIPS liquid repeller is inspired by carnivorous plants, enemy to insects and graffiti artists alike

Brian Heater
August 3, 2012
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When a team of Harvard researchers wanted to create the ultimate liquid- and solid-repelling surface, they looked toward the Nepenthes pitcher plant, where curious insects check in and never check out, thanks to slippery walls that lead to their tiny, horrific fate. The tropical plant inspired the creation of SLIPS (Self-healing, Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface), a synthetic material that utilizes nano/ microstructured substrates, capable of repelling just about anything you can throw at it. During a visit to the hallowed Crimson halls, the team was kindly enough to show off the material through a series of messy, messy demos, dropping water, motor oil, liquid asphalt and newly-mixed concrete on aluminum and glass. The team even went crazy with a can of black spray paint, comparing the results to a Teflon surface. The outcome was the same in all case -- an amazingly repellent material.

The team has published a number of papers on the stuff, including ones that demonstrate its ice- and bacteria-repelling properties. Oh, and like its natural inspiration, SLIPS does a great jobs keeping bugs off its surface. You can check out our demos and one unhappy ant filmed by the SLIPS team. No insects were harmed in the making of our video, at least -- and the lab assures us that ant had a good life before learning the hard way why it shouldn't mess with Harvard scientists.

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