Business

People’s choice in MIT entrepreneurship competition is LiquiGlide

MIT $100K
Entrepreneurship
Competition

LiquiGlide, audience choice award winner

$2,000

An MIT lab dedicated to nanoengineering wants to eliminate one of the scourges of the backyard barbecue: the ketchup bottle that won’t cough up that last stubborn 10 percent.

A team of entrepreneurial scientists, led by Professor Kripa Varanasi, has developed a microscopically thin coating that would allow every drop of ketchup or any other condiment to slide out of the bottle. Research by Varanasi and his students — which included shaking ketchup and mayonnaise bottles as hard as they could and measuring what was left — estimated that about 1 million tons of food gets thrown away, stuck to the bottom and sides of containers.

“Our coating would let you get access to [it],” said Dave Smith, a graduate student on the team.

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Varanasi and his team of four students and a postdoctoral researcher call the invention LiquiGlide. He notes that H.J. Heinz alone produces 675 million ketchup bottles every year.

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The coating uses highly slippery materials that have already been approved by the FDA — all of them derived from plants.

“We’ve talked to various folks in the supply chain, from equipment makers to bottle makers to food companies, and they all love it and want it in their bottles,” Varanasi says. He expects the coating could be on the market in two or three years. And beyond just condiments, it could prove useful in containers for shampoos and lotions, Smith says.

LiquiGlide didn’t take home the big $100,000 prize at last Tuesday’s competition finals — that went to CloudTop, a system to help Internet users manage all the files they keep stored online — but it did win the audience choice award, which invites the crowd rather than the judges to pick its favorite idea.