Super slippery: The newly-created material repels almost all fluids, including blood and oil
Now researchers have developed an 'omniphobic' material which works in a similar way to repel liquids in a way never achieved before.
The Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface coating (Slip) can prevent complex liquids like blood and oil sticking to it, and stays slippery in freezing and humid conditions.
The material also works under atmospheric pressures equivalent to being seven kilometres under the sea.
Scratched with a knife, the surface repairs itself almost instantaneously and retains its repellent qualities.
Scientists believe similar Slip materials could find applications in biomedicine, fuel transport, optics, and anti-fouling technologies such as self-cleaning windows.
'Not only is our bio-inspired surface able to work in a variety of conditions, but it is also simple and cheap to manufacture,' said researcher Sung Hoon Kang, from Harvard University in the US.
The pitcher's secret is to lock a layer of water on to the surface of its leaves, creating an effect similar to a car aquaplaning on a wet road.
To test whether it stood up to Nature's standards, the researchers conducted experiments with ants which were unable to cling to the surface.
'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,' said Professor Joanna Aizenberg, who led the Harvard team.
The research is published today in the journal Nature.
In future Slips could be used to line pipes and tubes which are sensitive to drag and pressure, such as those used to transport fuels and water or to function as catheters or transfuse blood.
Other potential applications include self-cleaning windows, and surfaces that resist bacteria or fouling, prevent icing up in cold weather, and protect against graffiti.
'The versatility of Slips, their robustness and unique ability to self-heal, makes it possible to design these surfaces for use almost anywhere, even under extreme temperature and pressure conditions,' said Prof Aizenberg.
'It potentially opens up applications in harsh environments, such as polar or deep sea exploration, where no satisfactory solutions exist at present.'
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