Science & Environment

Slippery bottle solves ketchup problem

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Media captionThe BBC's Pallab Ghosh reports: The invention means the ketchup "just glides out"

Scientists in Boston have found a way to get every last drop of ketchup out of the bottle.

They have developed a coating that makes bottle interiors super slippery.

The coating can also be used to make it easier to squeeze out the contents of other containers, such as those holding toothpaste, cosmetics and even glue.

The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe that their innovation could dramatically reduce waste.

It is always an effort getting that last drop of ketchup out of the bottle.

Everyone has their own technique. Some karate chop the bottle, others furiously shake it and many simply bash it.

But the MIT team has developed a system that banishes all that frustration.

When incorporated into the bottle, it enables the ketchup or any other liquid to just slide out without leaving a trace.

In its manufacture, the container must first be coated on the inside with a rough surface.

A very thin layer is then placed over this. And, finally, a liquid is added that fills in any troughs to form a very slippery surface - like an oily floor.

The ketchup hovers on top and just glides out of the bottle.

According to Prof Kripa Varanasi, who developed the slippery surface, the technology is completely safe.

"The cool thing about it is that because the coating is a composite of solid and liquid, it can be tailored to the product. So for food, we make the coating out of food-based materials and so you can actually eat it."

The technology's co-inventor Dr David Smith told me that it could also help reduce waste.

"With the manufacture of these sticky products there is about 200 million gallons of material each year that gets stuck to tanks and then gets washed off and thrown away. And in packages there are about 40 billion packs with material stuck in packages so the technology has the potential to significantly reduce waste."

Some people may miss the ritual struggle with their ketchup. But like it or not when the super slippery bottle becomes available in a few years' time, meal times will be a little less tricky.

Image caption In this demonstration, the paint container on the left is untreated; on the right, the paint in the treated container slips easily off the sides to the bottom

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