Science

This New Invention Could Get That Last Drop of Toothpaste Out of the Tube

This New Invention Could Get That Last Drop of Toothpaste Out of the Tube
Image credit: TheGiantVermin | Flickr
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You know how it goes. You can see the glue -- or paint, or suntan lotion, or honey -- still in the bottle, but no amount of shaking or squeezing can get the substance to leave the container. So you throw the bottle away, wasting the contents you were hoping to use.

LiquiGlide, a company created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by a professor and one of his graduate students back in 2012, is able to reduce that waste to zero thanks to a coating that keeps the inside of containers constantly slippery. The invention has caught the attention of famed glue company Elmer’s Products, which has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with LiquiGlide for the use of such coatings in glue containers, The New York Times reports. The coating has also been licensed to a packaging company in Australia to use inside paint cans. As J. David Smith, one of LiquiGlide’s founders, told the Times, “We expect it to be ubiquitous.”

The science behind the coating can be a bit tricky, but the Times explains it this way: “Essentially, the lubricant binds more strongly to the textured surface than to the liquid, and that allows the liquid to slide on a layer of lubricant instead of being pinned against the surface, and the textured surface keeps the lubricant from slipping out.” Moreover, the ingredients of the lubricant and the textured layer can be adjusted to be effective for various liquids -- from paint to condiments -- that each have their own particular properties and viscosities.

LiquiGlide assures the coatings are non-toxic and can be created from all sorts of materials. According to its website, consumer products such as condiments or body lotion can be coated with food materials. “If you took a ketchup bottle with our coating and scraped off the coating with a knife, you could eat it and it would be completely harmless.”

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For product makers, the coating can be applied through a “simple spray coating process, using existing machinery, available on the market today,” the company states. It can be used on any smooth surface, including glass, metal and plastic.

It might seem, to product companies, that the coating would cause customers to buy their products less often if they're able to use every bit of it. Instead, LiquiGlide argues the opposite, explaining that because there's no need for customers to ration their use of a product as it's running out, they'll actually consume it faster. "This will increase sales for consumer brands, as it pushes consumers to an earlier repurchase point," the company states.

While ketchup companies have not yet expressed interest, LiquiGlide plans to explore other, more industrial applications for its coating, including the pipelines and tanks used for oil, the Times reports.

Earlier this month, the company received $7 million in funding from Toronto-based Roadmap Capital which will be used to move into a new laboratory in Cambridge, Mass.

In 2009, Consumer Reports magazine found that sizeable percentages of various products never make it out of their packagings. Skin lotion was the worst offender, with somewhere between 17 and 25 percent of liquid staying in the bottle. Detergent, condiments and toothpaste were also wasted, as up to 16 percent, 15 percent and 13 percent of the materials were stuck to their respective containers.

Related: A 5-Step Reality Check for Inventors

 
 
Edition: December 2016

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