Huazhong University of Science & Technology researchers have shown a 3D printed toilet with a surface so smooth that no waste can adhere to it. This might be a giant leap forward for water efficiency. Because human faeces always adheres to toilet surfaces, flush toilets waste a lot of water every time they’re used. However, these ultrasmooth surfaces are rapidly damaged by mechanical abrasions and are ineffective against complicated fluids and other viscoelastic substances.
After July 2023 broke records as the hottest month on Earth, more and more technologies are being released in an effort to tackle the climate issue, which has everyone worried. As water shortages are on the horizon, this of course entails making an effort to save water. Since the widespread use of flush toilets, it is estimated that human wastewater production has grown by a factor of roughly 20. This has made finding environmentally friendly solutions to this problem crucial, but politically controversial.
The 3D printed ARSFT shows exceptional repellence to complex fluids by remaining clean despite being exposed to milk, yoghurt, very sticky honey, and starch gel mixed congee. The ARSFT is not only impervious to liquids, but also to synthetic faeces, which tend to attach to surfaces. Notably, the ARSFT retains its record-breaking super-slippery capabilities even after being abraded to 1,000 cycles with sandpaper.
Making of the 3D Printed Toilet
Researchers lead by Yike Li used selective laser sintering to produce the 3D printed toilet. The first prototype of the abrasion-resistant, super-slippery flush toilet (ARSFT) was ten times smaller than the final product. Researchers created the substance by fusing together plastic and hydrophobic sand grains with a laser to form an intricate pattern. The porous architecture of the self-supporting 3D complex form allows lubricants like silicon oil to be encapsulated inside it, making the surface even more abrasion-resistant and slick.
The 3D printed toilet ARSFT’s ultrasmooth surfaces are based on the nano/microstructure substrate and infused lubricants found in Nepenthes pitcher plants. To minimise interfacial adhesion and find widespread use in anti-fouling, self-cleaning, and anti-icing applications, lubricant films are often used as the initial point of contact between contaminants and the substrate surface.
Surfaces of laser-sintered polymer networks are inherently highly porous and rough, making them suitable for lubricant accommodation. This alternate method of fabricating abrasion-resistant super-slippery flushing toilets (ARSFTs) with on-demand 3D constructions is promising since mechanical wear of the top surfaces will not compromise the super-slippery capabilities because the exposed bottom one also holds the lubricant.
Testing out the 3D Printed Toilet
After that, the 3D printed toilet was put through a series of tests using a variety of complicated liquids, such as milk, yoghurt, very sticky honey, and starch gel mixed congee. These tests were designed to demonstrate the toilet’s resilience to these liquids. In addition, the researchers mention that the surface showed signs of having an especially high resistance to sticky synthetic faeces.
It definitely looks promising, especially when one considers that one of the primary purposes of this toilet is to conserve water by eliminating the need for several flushes (as unwelcome particles will not attach to the bowl of the toilet), as a result, one of the major goals of this toilet is to save water. In addition, even after being subjected to a total of one thousand cycles of abrasion using sandpaper, the super-slippery qualities of the 3D printed toilet appear to have been preserved.
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