God’s amazing design of the carnivorous pitcher plant has inspired scientists to develop similar nanoparticles. The leaves of the pitcher plant trap water in such a way as to create a frictionless surface. When an insect lands, it hydroplanes along the leaves and down into the pitcher, where it drowns in a special fluid. Not a very nice plant to come upon if you’re an insect, but fascinating for scientists.

In fact, scientists at Harvard University have developed a nanomaterial coating based on this design, called SLIPS (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface). When applied to clothing, SLIPS fills in the tiny pores with nanoparticles of silica or alumina, creating a slick surface which stains cannot stick to. This means that you can pour engine oil down the front of your shirt and it will slide right off. While the material has some advantages, it makes the original fabric less breathable. Even so, this may be the future of stain-resistant clothing.

Personally, I think this coating should be a requirement for every bib and burp cloth on the market. Maybe I’ll start my own company for that. Maybe, call it Nano-tots. Oh, and I’ve even got the slogan already—It’s not just clean, it’s nano-clean!

What do you think? Who’s ready to front me a few million for a start-up?

Reference: Winkless, Laurie, “Nanotech Is Finally Here: Clothing That Never Gets Dirty,” Science Uncovered, May 2014, issue 6, p.76

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