There’s a strong argument that if the human world is going to become environmentally sustainable it is technology rather than collective awareness and a willingnessThere’s a strong argument that if the human world is going to become environmentally sustainable it is technology rather than collective awareness and a willingness to make short term sacrifices that will save the day. And even the most optimistic campaigners for us all making the changes necessary to reduce our individual and collective carbon footprint are likely to admit that some technological assistance will also be necessary. And, if the latest technology can kill two birds with one stone by letting us avoid an unpleasant bit of domestic work at the same time – all the better!
And a team of American scientists believe they have achieved exactly that. A self-cleaning lavatory that could also save an annual 100 billion litres of waste water. As inventions go, it sounds like one of the most practically useful, in more ways than one, in a long time.
The scientists in question have developed a specialist coating for toilets they say stops anything from sticking to it. Even, and please excuse the mental picture about to be conjured in the interests of accurate coverage of the topic, “notoriously clingy ‘Type 6-ers’ on the Bristol Stool Chart”. Now, even without, thank goodness, being personally familiar with the ‘Bristol Stool Chart’, I think we can all quickly grasp what a ‘notoriously clingy Type 6’ refers to. And that we’d all live happier lives if their consequences were nipped in the bud by a cling-free lavatory coating.
The lavatory system developed by the innovative science team from Pennsylvania State University has been recently described in the Nature Sustainability journal. The coating used is based on nanotechnology for an ultra-smooth, grip-free surface. The team estimates that their system could save on up to 90% of the volume of water currently used by the average lavatory.
The problem the invention solves is explained as humanely as possible by Professor Tak-Sing Wong of Pennsylvania State’s mechanical and biomedical engineering department, while still getting straight to the point:
“Poos are very sticky. We all know this from our daily experience.”
And the professor is more right than many of us probably even realise. They are so sticky that even Teflon isn’t non-stick enough to survive. But the new nanotech material the coating developed is made from is. It is applied to a ceramic surface as two layers. The first bonds to the ceramic itself and creates a surface of fine hairs. The second coating, which needs to be reapplied after approximately every 500 flushes creates the perfectly smooth outer surface that even the stickiest of substances just slide right off.
The coating material has been branded ‘Spotless Materials’. Keep an eye out for it soon at your local B&Q!