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Engineering slick solutions for sticky problems -- Science Nation


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 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.

Original air date: May 9, 2016

Credit: National Science Foundation (NSF)

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This is an episode from Science Nation, NSF's online magazine that's all about science for the people.

 
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