Email Print Share
May 9, 2016

Engineering slick solutions for sticky problems

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 (TM) 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.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Videos credited to the National Science Foundation, an agency of the U.S. Government, may be distributed freely. However, some materials within the videos may be copyrighted. If you would like to use portions of NSF-produced programs in another product, please contact the Video Team in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs at the National Science Foundation.

Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.