NANO: Dr. Delwyn Evans
Companies are an important part of the nanotech initiative. They take lab discoveries and apply them to consumers’ daily lives. One of the most successful nanotech companies, P2i, just won the title of Most Innovative Company in Europe. P2i manufactures technology that adds liquid repellent protection for both electronics and apparel (footwear). I interview Dr. Delwyn Evans, a chemist at P2i.
JT: Tell me about yourself, your background, and your position at P2i.
DE: I’m the Principal Chemist at P2i, and my responsibilities include the development and optimization of our nano-coating technology, representing the company at conferences and training our technical staff in the chemistry aspects of our process. Prior to P2i I worked for Abbott Laboratories as a Principal Scientist on blood glucose sensors and Cookson on residue-free solders. My degrees in Chemistry were obtained at the University of York, UK.
JT: How did you become interested in nanotechnology? How did you come to work at this company?
DE: Nanotechnology is interesting as it helps push technical boundaries set up by the limitations of incumbent technology, and when it’s commercialized, then it’s game-changing. P2i was particularly attractive as their technology can be applied to a wide range of industrial markets and so deliver serious commercial impact.
JT: How does the P2i technology work?
DE: On a general level, P2i’s process applies a nano-thin polymer coating to the surfaces of products. Depending on the customer’s requirements, a different polymer can be put onto their product so the surface can be made water repellent, oil repellent, water wetting or a range of other effects. Products are processed in a vacuum chamber and plasmas are used to activate the product surface and promote the growth of the polymer layer. As the process occurs in a vacuum, the monomer (polymer pre-cursor) can penetrate into the 3D structure of the product. At the end of the process, the chamber returns to atmospheric pressure and the treated items are removed and ready for use. It can have environmental benefits compared to traditional technologies as it only uses small quantities of monomer, and its solvent free.
JT: P2i was just named the most innovative company in Europe. What do you find to be the most innovative aspect of its technology?
DE: The adaptability of the core technology and work P2i has put in to take it from a university lab bench to a globalized industrial process. Many scientists are really surprised that the results from a PhD project can directly lead to a successful business.
JT: Where can I find P2i products?
DE: Consumers can currently find P2i-treated products on footwear and hearing aids. Many brands of shoes for sport or outdoor activities have taken up P2i’s water repellent treatment - ion-mask™. In the electronics sector, we have a technology called Aridion™, which prevents the ingress of water into devices. Over 4,500,000 hearings aids have now been processed with Aridion™. Hearing aids have their internal components protected against water ingress with our Aridion™ technology and so last longer in humid environments. We also treat bioconsumable products for lab use and filter membranes. As our technology develops further, we aim to bring a range of effects to a wider range of products.
JT: What do you see as the extent of P2i technology benefitting our daily lives?
DE: P2i technology makes great products even better. It can extend their lifetime, give them different functionality, and offer a wider choice of materials to product designers for their construction. And it can do all this with minimal amounts of chemicals, which gives it a low environmental footprint.
JT: Lastly, as someone on the cutting edge of science and technology, where do you see nanotechnology in five years?
DE: Nanotechnology will have its greatest effect in improving existing technologies and enabling new scientific areas. I expect its impact to be more subtle and gradual to end consumers, but felt more significantly in technical industries. It sounds like an oxymoron, but nano is only going to get bigger!
(Interviewed on the 15th August, 2011 - The TechSplurge blog can be read here)