Springboro grad shows ketchup who’s the boss

Invention of LiquiGlide could have many applications. Doctorate student, MIT team become tech stars via video.

No matter how much Smith accomplishes, he knows the super-slick coating he and his team have developed may ultimately be what sticks to him.

Smith’s reputation may forever be doused in ketchup.

Smith and his team have created a coating, named LiquiGlide, that keeps condiments like mayo or mustard from sticking to the inside of the container.

“I don’t mind (that being his legacy),” Smith said in the aftermath of national media fascination with the product that included a 20-second video of the condiment exiting a bottle with nary a slap or shake. “I think it’s really cool the idea that this could end up being in everyone’s kitchen in a couple years, something that’s that commonplace. I actually really like to be part of something or to have contributed to something that everyone directly benefits from and knows it.

“I want to be able to just point out that bottle and say ‘Yeah, that’s got our coating on it.’ ”

Even his parents are into it, though they may prefer something a little more honorific.

“When he gets his Ph.D., he can be Dr. Ketchup,” says his father, D.M. Smith of Springboro.

His mother, Lisa, says, “My neighbor called me ‘Mrs. Ketchup’ when I walked out to the bus. ‘Good morning, Mrs. Ketchup!’ ”

What may have been missed in the gibes and jokes was that the product, called LiquiGlide, could well have application in other industries and products far beyond the hot dog and hamburger.

Smith and his team, which includes Adam Paxson, Brian Solomon, Rajeev Dhiman, Christopher Love and Kripa Varanasi, made the bottle scenario work for the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

A few months later, they came in second, missing out on the $100,000 in seed money but winning the $2,000 audience-choice prize.

The venture began a few years ago with the group thinking about an airplane anti-icing application and reducing pipeline friction to lessen the chance of leaks and spills.

“This kind of technology can go so far,” Smith said. “It has so many different applications we’re not even thinking of. By putting it in bottles, we’re putting it in front of everyone. I think that’ll give us a lot of business to make the technology go a lot further by putting it in a commonplace item to begin with.”

The group, through MIT, has filed the requisite patents, has a website and intends to ramp up the business this summer.

Smith’s background at home and in school in Springboro certainly pointed to something interesting, though his parents at the time couldn’t say what.

“In early high school, we thought maybe he’d be good as a carpenter or doing something with his hands,” said Smith’s father. “But about his junior year, he said, ‘No, I want to do something with my mind.’ And so he’s doing both.”

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