Coating manufacturer Sto made headlines several years ago with the Lotusan self-cleaning surface treatment inspired by the dirt-repelling action of lotus leaves. Recently, Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine has applied the "lotus effect" to tableware, making prototype dishes that are both water and dirt resistant.
The new self-cleaning crockery is made of a lightweight, cellulose-based material created by Swedish paper research company Innventia. The base substance, which possesses a toughness similar to ceramics, is covered entirely with a hydrophobic coating developed by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. KTH researchers create the surface treatment by crystallizing wax in CO2 under high heat and pressure, a process called rapid expansion of supercritical solutions.
Although the new dishware is only a prototype, Tomorrow Machine's invention represents another compelling application of the lotus effect. The designers claim the dishes "never need washing," thus reducing the use of water and chemicals. Some cleansing, however, presumably would be required for sanitary purposes. Sponsored by the Swedish forestry organization Skogsindustrierna, the novel application suggests the development of other potential uses where grime regularly accumulates, such as countertops, handrails, bathtubs, and showers.
Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.