Engineers Invent a Bottle that Empties to the Last Drop

There’s got to be a better way.

by Becky Ferreira
Jun 27 2016, 10:00am

Image: Video by Philip S. Brown and Joe Camoriano, courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Science has enabled humans to walk on the Moon, cure diseases, and probe the dazzling complexities of the universe around us. But that was all a warm-up for today, when scientific progress reached its greatest peak—a container that empties out to the last drop.

That's right: Say goodbye to those farty Ketchup and shampoo bottles. In a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, engineers Bharat Bhushan and Philip Brown of Ohio State University (OSU) describe their patent-pending method for optimizing the egress of commercial liquids from containers.

"It's what you'd call a first-world problem, right?" Bhushan commented in a statement. "But manufacturers are really interested in this, because they make billions of bottles that end up in the garbage with product still in them."

In an attempt to mitigate this waste, Bhushan and Brown coated the insides of plastic bottles with ultra-fine silica nanoparticles, which formed a layer of y-shaped structures measuring only a few micrometers tall. These tiny pedestals repel liquids from the plastic interior, enabling droplets to flow down the slick, air-pocketed path created for them by the nanoparticles. Voilà.

"We all struggle with shampoo bottles at home," Bhushan said. "I have a few in my shower right now. Trying to get the last drop out, I put it upside down, and my wife adds water to the bottle and fights with it for a while, and then we give up and just throw it away."

Ah, the familiar scene of wresting our full money's worth from our bottled liquid products. May this be the beginning of the end of it because, to borrow the language of infomercials, there is a better way.