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"Grimestopper" -- The Discovery Files

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Spray it on, brush it on, spin it on: A newly developed durable, clear coating is "omniphobic," meaning it repels virtually every known liquid. By mixing mathematical possibilities on the computer, researchers discovered the right set of ingredients to concoct the coating, which could potentially prevent surfaces from getting grimy, both at home and in industry.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Omniphobic.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

If you were to throw this idea up on a wall to see if anything sticks -- nothing would. "Omniphobic" is how scientists refer to the properties of a new smooth, durable, clear coating that repels just about every known liquid. Water, (Sound effect: splash) oils, (Sound effect: gloop!) (Sound effect: pop cork) alcohol, (Sound effect: pour) even peanut butter (Sound effect: glop).

University of Michigan researchers have come up with other repellant coatings, but this is the first that's durable and clear. It can be sprayed, brushed or spin-coated onto virtually any surface tables, floors, walls, doorknobs -- think about it -- by coating the surfaces, (Sound effect: kid sounds) you could kid-proof your phone, your home, even a kindergartener or daycare.

To come up with the right set of ingredients, the team did some mathematical mixing, concocting combinations in the computer to predict how they'll behave. They found that a mix of fluorinated polyurethane and a fluid-repellent molecule named "F-POSS" did the trick.

The team continues to test the coating to ensure that it's non-toxic, and hopes to bring it to the mass market within two years. In terms of its industrial use potential in areas like refrigeration, power generation and oil refining, it could be a real game-changer.

And even in the industrial-strength mess that is my kitchen.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
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