A team of MIT engineers appear to have definitively solved the ketchup conundrum! As Austin Carr reports over at Fast Company, the team has invented a bottle coating, LiquiGlide, which takes solid form but is "lubricated" like a liquid. Put it inside a ketchup bottle, one researcher says, and the ketchup "just floats right onto the sandwich." (Yes, that is 100% real ketchup in the video below.)
The team, which consists of four grad students, a post-doc, and an MIT professor, is part of the Varanasi Research Group, which specializes in "nano engineered surfaces, interfaces, and coatings." Last week, the team came in second at the MIT 100k Competition (where, unsurprisingly, it also won the Audience Choice Award). Dave Smith, one of the grad students on the team, explains to Carr just how useful this "structured liquid" might be:
"Itís funny: Everyone is always like, 'Why bottles? Whatís the big deal?' But then you tell them the market for bottles -- just the sauces alone is a $17 billion market," Smith says. "And if all those bottles had our coating, we estimate that we could save about one million tons of food from being thrown out every year."
Here's hoping that shampoo is next. Read more -- and watch a mayonnaise video! -- at Fast Company.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.