Advanced Materials Technology Solves Global Plague of Difficult-to-Pour Ketchup

Behold, the wonders of science.

You know that thing where you go to pour ketchup onto your burger and/or fries and it won't come out of the bottle? First, you hit the bottom of the bottle with the base of your palm: BAM-BAM. But it still won't come out. So you try to dislodge the ketchup by accelerating the bottle quickly and then stopping it just as quickly. After a few goes, you decide that's not working either, so you reach for your knife and shove it into the opening of the ketchup bottle. Only then does the beautiful tomato-based sauce come pouring down onto your meal.

For decades, this has been a tradition in diners across Amerca. But perhaps our children will not have to conquer this particular user-interface bug of the ketchup bottle. 

Behold, the wonders of science: Researchers at MIT have developed a "super-slippery," non-toxic coating that will ease that glop right out of the bottle, Fast Company's Austin Carr reports. Carr explains:

[MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith] and a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists at the Varanasi Research Group have been held up in an MIT lab for the last two months addressing this common dining problem. 

The result? LiquiGlide, a "super slippery" coating made up of nontoxic materials that can be applied to all sorts of food packaging--though ketchup and mayonnaise bottles might just be the substance's first targets. Condiments may sound like a narrow focus for a group of MIT engineers, but not when you consider the impact it could have on food waste and the packaging industry. "It's funny: Everyone is always like, 'Why bottles? What's 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."

Smith tells Carr that the material works by being structured like a solid but lubricated like a liquid. He won't say what it's made out of, but the materials were selected from a narrow range of options that could meet with FDA approval. Based on the video above it seems that ketchup-lovers might actually be forced to unlearn their ketchup-retrieval tricks and focus on mastering a controlled pour, lest you drown your fries. Below, for comparison, the frustrating experience we are all familiar with: getting ketchup out of your standard glass bottle.

Head over to Fast Company's article to see this glorious technology work its wonders on ... mayonnaise.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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