You're in the shower, feeling your tension melt away under the heat of the water, when you reach for the shampoo. Even before you've opened your eyes, something's terribly wrong. It feels suspiciously light, and you can already tell this won't end well.
Dramatic? Sure. But tell me it doesn't ruin your whole day when there's a quarter-sized amount of shampoo left in the bottle that you can't get out. Shake and rinse as you may, that soapy formula isn't moving.
If science exists to solve the world's practical problems, then Ohio State University is surely putting its resources to excellent use. A team from the university has published patent-pending resolution to the problem, in the form of a brand new shampoo bottle fix that can be commercially reproduced. No more spending $30 on a bottle of salon-brand shampoo, only to lose $5 of it at the bottom.
The conundrum, according to the New York Times, is that soapy fluids are packed with surfactants designed to cleanse our hair and bodies of dirt and oils. That means their particles are more likely to cling to each other and surfaces than, say, water. The researchers, who jokingly refer to this as a “first-world problem,” say the conundrum is costing both manufacturers and customers.
So, the team set out to create a spray that would coat the interior of shampoo bottles. Mixing ultra-fine silica with a solvent that slightly softens the plastic, the team discovered a way to keep soapy particles from clumping up together.
The silica settles into tiny, Y-shaped structures that separate shampoo into droplets with air pockets underneath, keeping them from sticking to the bottle. However, the mixture does contain a fluorine compound, which may pose an environmental threat because it doesn't break down well.
The Times reports this solution is the first of its kind, solving the shampoo dilemma on a very small budget. It's much more efficient than trying to add water and shake out the rest of the product, certainly. By patenting the technique and licensing it out, the team hopes it's opening doors for household products, as well as catheters and car headlights.
But, in the meantime, you won't have to have that horrible shower moment. Free the shampoo.