Crazy amounts of water are flushing down our toilets every day. To put an end to this waste, researchers are now proposing to cover our toilets with an extremely slippery coating. A technique inspired by a carnivorous plant!
Six litres of water is what goes down your toilet every time you flush. Every day, it is estimated that more than 140 billion litres of water are used in this way. This amount is all the more colossal because today millions of people are suffering from water shortages. That is why researchers at PennState University (United States) have been studying the issue.
They have developed a coating that can be sprayed on ceramic toilet bowls. The process is actually a two-step process. By the prior application of polydimethylsiloxane, PDMS. “When it dries, it forms molecular chains that look like hair, but with a diameter about 1,000,000 times smaller,” explains Wang. This creates a very smooth surface that adheres to the surface of the toilet.
In a second step, a very thin layer of silicone oil-based lubricant is sprayed around these nanoscopic hairs. This makes the surface extremely slippery. This means that the residues — both liquid and solid — can be removed from the bowl with only a fraction of the water previously required. Including 90% of the bacteria responsible for infectious diseases and unpleasant odours.
The solution was inspired to researchers by a carnivorous plant — the Sarracenia — that has developed a particularly slippery inner surface to capture its prey. It could even be used in waterless toilets. A solution widely used around the world where water is scarce for this purpose. The aim is to make them safer to use and thus prevent the outbreak of diseases that are sometimes fatal, especially for children.