The natural world has many tricks to teach us about efficiency and design. Take the carnivorous pitcher plant: its super slippery surface acts like a slide for unsuspecting ants that can’t stop themselves from sliding right into the plant and becoming dinner. A mechanical engineer at Penn State University is using the pitcher plant as inspiration for a range of new materials that could one day solve some of society’s stickiest problems.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Tak-Sing Wong and his team are developing materials known as slippery-liquid infused porous surfaces, or SLIPS. They can be made of liquid Teflon™ and chemically customized for different applications, such as bio-compatible for medical devices or highly durable for the hull of a ship. Wong says the possibilities are endless, from keeping walls clear of graffiti to keeping aircraft free of ice.
His long-term goal is to address some of the grand challenges in the 21st century in the areas of water, energy and health. – NSF