Science Scope

Scientists invent non-stick gum

Posting in Cities

Sticky shoes and gum-dotted sidewalks might soon be a thing of the past thanks to non-sticky gum.

Say goodbye to having to drag your foot along the ground to get that gum you stepped in off. A UK company is developing gum that doesn't stick to the sidewalk, or your shoe.

How the project started is fun, FastCompany reports:

Walking down the streets of U.S. cities, one of the company’s co-founders noticed blobs of gum spotting the sidewalks. Dared by his wife to find a solution, he created a new polymer that turns the everlasting, sticks-to-everything stuff into a degradable compound that, while not quite non-stick, can be more easily removed from a variety of materials.

Why does gum stick and harden to the sidewalks anyway? It has to do with what makes gum chewable. Basically, gum repels water. If it absorbed water, it would get bigger and bigger in your mouth as you chew. But, it doesn't just repel water in your mouth (also known as saliva), it also repels water from the air, like rain or a hose that might try to wash the sidewalk gum away. Each year, the world spends a whole lot of money, energy, and chemicals to get those pesky gum spots out.

What about this new gum, how does that work? The idea is that the gum would degrade over time, and thus come off the sidewalks easily. Inside the gum is a chemical compound that actually encourages the gum to take on water. This engineered gum, also called Rev7, curls up at the edges as it dries, to make it easier to remove from the sidewalk.

So the next time you notice those hard, black globs of gum on the ground, say goodbye, because they might just be a thing of the past.

Via: Fast Company

Image: Limarie C / Flickr

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Rose Eveleth

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Rose Eveleth is a freelance writer, producer and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, OnEarth, Discover, New York Times, Story Collider and Radiolab. She holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure