The flush toilet, a groundbreaking invention from the late 16th century, only gained widespread use in the 1850s. Since then, this everyday marvel has saved countless lives by preventing diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. Despite its crucial role in public health, we often take toilets for granted, except for the unpleasant task of cleaning them. However, a recent breakthrough in toilet design may change our perception of this essential fixture.

Chinese researchers have developed a 3D-printed toilet surface with exceptional slipperiness, preventing virtually anything from adhering to it, even after heavy use. While this innovation has the potential to drastically reduce water consumption in flushing, its most notable contribution may be rendering traditional toilet brushes obsolete.

While slippery toilet surfaces are not new, they typically rely on coatings like Teflon, which degrade over time and require frequent replacement. In contrast, the new toilet design developed by a team led by Yike Li from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, functions differently. It features a toilet surface that remains incredibly slippery even under continuous abrasion due to the material’s unique properties.

The Abrasion-Resistant Super-Slippery Flush Toilet, abbreviated as ARSSFT, is created using a 3D-printed blend of plastic and hydrophobic sand grains. Researchers employ a selective laser sintering technique to craft a self-supporting three-dimensional structure with a porous architecture, which can be infused with lubricants. Silicon oil is used to saturate the material, ensuring it remains embedded and offers a formidable shield against stubborn substances.

To test its durability, the researchers subjected a small-scale ARSSFT prototype to eight liters of water during a flush test, and it emerged unscathed with its slipperiness intact. The surface endured 1,000 cycles of abrasive sandpaper treatment, as well as deliberate harm inflicted with a file and a Stanley knife, still maintaining its super-slippery capabilities.

However, the ultimate challenge was to expose the ARSSFT to various substances, including mud, milk, yogurt, honey, starch-filled gel, and synthetic feces. Astonishingly, none of these materials adhered to the surface.

While the researchers currently have no plans to enter the toilet manufacturing industry, their creation has far-reaching implications. Though the treated material may be too expensive for household use, it holds great potential for high-traffic public restrooms, leading to significant water and energy savings. This revolutionary toilet design could revolutionize hygiene and conservation efforts in the future.

By Impact Lab