Email Print Share

"Grimestopper" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

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:


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 or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
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.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (66.6 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.