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Slippery slope:Researchers take advice from a carnivorous plant
Date:9/21/2011

otus strategy.

The pitcher plant takes a fundamentally different approach. Instead of using burr-like, air-filled nanostructures to repel water, the plant locks in a water layer, creating a slick coating on the top. In short, the fluid itself becomes the repellent surface.

"The effect is similar to when a car hydroplanes, the tires literally gliding on the water rather than the road," says lead author Tak-Sing Wong, a postdoctoral fellow in the Aizenberg lab. "In the case of the unlucky ants, the oil on the bottom of their feet will not stick to the slippery coating on the plant. It's like oil floating on the surface of a puddle."

Inspired by the pitcher plant's elegant solution, the scientists designed a strategy for creating slippery surfaces by infusing a nano/microstructured porous material with a lubricating fluid. They are calling the resulting bio-inspired surfaces "SLIPS" (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces).

"Like the pitcher plant, SLIPS are slippery for insects, but they are now designed to do much more: they repel a wide variety of liquids and solids," says Aizenberg. SLIPS show virtually no retention, as very little tilt is needed to coax the liquid or solid into sliding down and off the surface.

"The repellent fluid surface offers additional benefits, as it is intrinsically smooth and free of defects," says Wong. "Even after we damage a sample by scraping it with a knife or blade, the surface repairs itself almost instantaneously and the repellent qualities remain, making SLIPS self-healing." Unlike the lotus, the SLIPS can be made optically transparent, and therefore ideal for optical applications and self-cleaning, clear surfaces.

In addition, the near frictionless effect persists under extreme conditions: high pressures (as much as 675 atmospheres, equivalent to seven kilometers under the sea) and humidity, and in colder temperatures. The team conducted studies outside after a snowstorm; SLI
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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

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