“This carnivorous pitcher plant has a particularly gruesome party trick – a highly slippery outer rim which causes insects to slip into a tube full of digestive juices. This super slippery rim, called a peristome, consists of a microtextured surface which becomes incredibly slippery when it gets wet. This microtexture is formed from overlapping epidermal cells, which cleverly directs insects to slip inwards and not out of the plant.”
Why would humans want to imitate a slippery, fly-digesting plant? As it turns out, a trick like this can potentially repel dirt, bacteria, fluids… and poop.
Learn how an ultra slippery coating was designed to keep toilets clean and to save water… and how it can help keep other things cleaner for longer, too, like solar panels, camera sensors, and more, all without using toxic chemicals like PFAs or dioxins that contribute to water pollution.
With animation by Jules Bartl and narration by Ed Prosser, the Biomimicry Institute shares the spotLESS team’s story. From PennState:
“Our technology is called LESS — Liquid Entrenched Smooth Surface, and it started back in 2015 when my research group was approached by a collaborator tasked with developing a sewerless, waterless toilet for the developing world,” [co-founder Tak-Sing] Wong said. “One challenge the researcher faced is that human waste is very sticky, and there was no existing coating that could repel human waste.
“My research group was known for developing slippery surfaces inspired by the pitcher plant… and so that’s how we got started on developing a new type of nonstick coating product…
“A big reason we made this technology was to be able to remove waste with little to no water and to make surfaces stay clean longer,” Boschitsch said. “We want to reduce time, effort, cost, and water and chemical waste.”
Watch these related videos next:
• How did trees inspire the ‘sustainable superstar’ of toilets?
• Mimicking shark skin to combat superbugs
• The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches – Cambridge Ideas
• Think Like a Tree: Problem solving with nature’s best ideas
• Hydrophobic metal made with laser-etched microscopic patterns
• Rattlesnakes’ scales help them sip rainwater from their bodies
Bonus: What’s inside the stomach of a carnivorous Pitcher Plant?
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