A device that can instantly identify unknown liquids based on their surface tension has been selected to receive the 2013 R&D 100 Award—known as “the Oscar of Innovation”—from R&D Magazine.

Invented in 2011 by a team of materials scientists and applied physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the “Watermark Ink” (W-INK) device offers a cheap, fast, and portable way to perform quality control tests and detect liquid contaminants.

W-INK fits in the palm of a hand and requires no power source. It exploits the chemical and optical properties of precisely nanostructured materials to distinguish liquids by their surface tension.

Winners of the R&D 100 Awards are selected by an independent judging panel and by the editors of R&D Magazine, which covers cutting-edge technologies and innovations for research scientists, engineers, and technical experts around the world.

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