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SLIPS Technologies Expands to Marine Coatings

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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A Massachusetts-based coatings company recently acquired funding for expansion into marine coatings.

Harvard spinoff SLIPS Technologies Inc. (Cambridge, Massachusetts) obtained $8.6 million in funding from both government and private sectors for development of a slippery marine coating. The firm will use the grants to work on products for the industrial and marine sectors.

A good portion of the funding—$2.95 million—came from ARPA-E, a grant program within the Department of Energy. Other funding is coming from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; BASF Venture Capital, which is the investment arm of German chemical company BASF; and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. According to Boston Business Journal, SLIPS had previously been able to raise $3 million between BASF and Wyss.

From Lotus to Pitcher

The technology behind liquid-repellent surfaces has faced some stumbling blocks in the past. According to the Wyss Institute at Harvard, where SLIPS began, previous liquid-repellent surfaces of the last 10 years have been based on the lotus leaf model. The lotus leaf, with its rough and waxy surface, is great at repelling water, but cannot repel substances like oil.

Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces, which was inspired by the slippery pitcher plant, repels almost every kind of liquid and solid, according to Wyss Institute. SLIPS is based on a microstructured porous material that can be infused with a lubricating fluid. When this happens, SLIPS locks in the fluid, creating a slick, self-cleaning, repellent surface for plastics, optics, textiles and other similar surfaces. Treating surfaces with this coating helps repel contaminants such as water, oil, bacteria and dust.

SLIPS Technologies Inc.

Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS), which was inspired by the slippery pitcher plant, repels almost every kind of liquid and solid, according to Wyss Institute.

In a marine coating, SLIPS could help prevent sea life such as barnacles from sticking to the hull of a ship, which would reduce fuel usage and drag. On the industrial side, SLIPS is focusing on developing a lubricant for machines and storage tanks—things that come into contact with sticky substances. SLIPS will allow for a reduction in wasted materials, as well as cutting cleaning costs. According to the company, this surface is truly smooth, unlike the lotus leaf-based surfaces of yesteryear. Foul agents slide right off of SLIPS surfaces.

Company Leadership

According to Boston Business Journal, former CEO Daniel Behr oversaw the development of SLIPS in a Harvard chemistry lab, but the company's focus has gone from developing the technology to taking it to market. Current CEO David Ward labeled this progression as something natural, and Boston Business Journal noted that going from development to market is a difficult step for companies in clean energy and material sciences.

“Our primary focus is to deliver products to market. I think that’s the biggest single inflection point for a business in our space," Ward told Boston Business Journal. “The stumbling blocks are primarily around not focusing. You can’t raise $50 million for these kinds of businesses the same way you can raise $50 million for an app. So you have to be capital efficient.”

Currently, Ward is aiming to release an industrial lubricant by the end of the year, with marine paint options being released several months after that.


Tagged categories: Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Foul release; hydrophobic coatings; Marine Coatings; Research and development

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