A lot of food items come in small plastic packets, making it difficult to squeeze content out. The Food left behind in plastic packaging contributes to the millions of pounds of perfectly edible food that Americans throw out every year. The study has yielded a provisional patent, establishing a method for wicking chemically compatible vegetable oils into the surfaces of common extruded plastics.
Not only will the technique help sticky foods release from their packaging much more easily, but it can also be applied to inexpensive and readily available plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene. In order for SLIPS to hold these oils, the surfaces must have some sort of nano- or micro-roughness, which keeps the oil in place by way of surface tension. Current silicone- and fluorine-based absorbent polymers SLIPS aren't attractive for industrial applications due to their high cost, while the method of adding roughness to surfaces can likewise be an expensive and complicated process. Jonathan Boreyko, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and a study co-author said, "Not only are we using these hydrocarbon-based polymers that are cheap and in high demand, but we don't have to add any surface roughness, either. We actually found oils that are naturally compatible with the plastics, so these oils are wicking into the plastic itself, not into a roughness we have to apply." While the method has obvious implications for industrial food and product packaging, it could also be used in the pharmaceutical industry. The oil-infused plastic surfaces are naturally anti-fouling, meaning they resist bacterial adhesion and growth.