Your shirts may yet be spared your clumsy eating. A team of scientists has created a new kind of super slippery coating called X-SLIPS, which can shed all kinds of water- and oil-based products -- like tomato sauce and mustard! The new coating has been developed by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign. It's inspired, apparently, by the waxy coating the interiors of Nepenthes pitcher plants. That's replicated in the lab by adding a 2.5-micron thick layer of fluorinated silane to a material's surface, before adding a mist of DuPont's Krytox lubricant, which is a bit like Teflon. Voila, mustard be gone.
In tests, which used foodstuffs like tomato sauce and mustard as well chemicals like kerosene, the coating allowed the the material it's applied to to neatly shed the offending liquids. These gifs show the coating in action. The coating is also tough: The team damaged it using 40-grit sandpaper, but found they were able to restore its properties by simply heating the surface, which caused the silane to fill in gaps created by the damage all by itself.
It may be a while until it's used to coat your shirt, sadly. But the team reckons it could be used to coat the lining of sauce packs, to make the stuff slide out a little more easily.
Gifs taken from video by Tak-Sing Wong/ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces