Welcome to our blog, where you can keep up-to-date with the latest P2i news and developments. We will post articles regarding news, events we attend, speaker presentations as well as explaining the nanotechnology industry.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

From the Inside: Treating Filtration Media

Delivering cutting-edge nanotechnology to the world’s largest and most prestigious manufacturers is no easy feat. The From the Inside blog series will take a deeper look into the elements that make up P2i’s successes.    

In this blog post Dr. Nick Rimmer, Vice President - Filtration and Business Development, will be discussing P2i’s revolutionary advances in the filtration industry. Nick has over 20 years’ experience working with thin film deposition technologies across a range of industries including microchips, LEDs, lasers, MEMS devices, semiconductors, electronic devices, footwear and filtration media. He is the driving force behind P2i’s successes in the filtration industry. 

What does P2i bring to the filtration industry?

We have been working on many new and interesting applications with a diverse range of manufacturers who seek protection against a variety of liquid hazards. We help companies improve the performance of their current offerings, everything from filters for car headlamps to applications in gas turbines, and enable them to create new products with liquid repellent solutions. 

What makes P2i unique?

P2i applies a nano-coating which dramatically lowers the surface energy of a product, achieving such high levels of liquid repellency that even difficult substances like oils and alcohols bead up and roll off. Oil is a major issue in the filtration industry and P2i provides levels of repellency higher than any other technology.

Traditional methods of coatings are often applied by spray, screen spreader or dip-coating and have many limitations. Often they have poor adhesion to the substrate and many are unsuitable for highly porous or breathable materials due to the blocking of the pore structure. P2i’s patented pulsed-plasma deposition process achieves high levels of liquid repellency without affecting the weight, breathability and mechanical strength of the product or material, because it is applied at the nano-scale - around 1000 times thinner than a human hair.
For our customers, realizing that our solutions are not only water repellent but also oil repellent is game-changing during product development stages.  

What recent developments have P2i made in the filtration industry?

Our new roll-to-roll system is a real triumph for P2i and will bring huge benefits to our filtration customers. By adapting our existing systems and working alongside partners who are highly experienced in roll-to-roll handling of materials, P2i has developed an exceptional new system. This system not only provides a high technical effect but has increased productivity and significantly lowered running costs. For me seeing the project progress from an initial idea to a system which is ready to go out to the customer is something I consider to be a career highlight.

What is your vision for P2i’s future in this industry?

P2i will continue to deliver exceptional service to our filtration customers, whilst ongoing research and development of new systems will increase throughput - essential for the cost-sensitive materials market. With faster speeds and the ability to process thin, fragile and porous media, P2i will be able to treat highly breathable membranes, opening new opportunities such as high-performance sportswear. And for an invisible liquid repellent technology, this just the tip of the iceberg! 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

From the Inside: Manufacturing

Delivering cutting-edge nanotechnology to the world’s largest and most prestigious manufacturers is no easy feat. The From the Inside blog series will take a deeper look into the elements that make P2i such a success.

First up is Supply Chain Manager, Chris Palmer. With a background in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and an MSc in Manufacturing (Management and Technology), Chris is instrumental in ensuring that the great technical effects we produce in the labs are replicated out in the field.

What do you do?

P2i offers solutions to global manufacturers to add water repellent and waterproof nano-coatings to their products. Our solutions add reliability and increased technical performance to products at the point of manufacture. My role is to ensure we are supplying the best quality equipment in the most efficient and cost effective manner. 

How is the tech applied?

Despite being highly technical and offering variable perimeters, our goal is to make our systems extremely easy to use on the factory floor.

In a smartphone manufacturing line, the batches of items are loaded into the system, right at the end of production as the last step before packaging. Our coating material is applied as a vapor under low pressure. The patented pulsed-plasma then bonds the coating material to the surface and the internals of the electronic devices (it’s a nano-coating so it’s able to penetrate throughout the phone). The coating has an extremely low surface energy, so instead of being attracted and sticking to the surfaces, water and other liquids are now repelled from the treated devices.

Why don’t you coat my phone as a consumer?

There are a number of reasons why we have chosen as a company not to coat individual phones at a retail level at this stage. From my point of view it comes down to quality. As a high-tech company we aim to optimize the process for each product or device. If you don’t have that tight relationship with the device manufacturer; then you are essentially using the same coating or similar recipe on many models or make of devices and optimal results are less likely to be achieved.

How much variation is there in terms of systems for different products?

Working closely with the OEMs and contract manufacturers, who are actually producing the electronic device, ensures that we can optimize and tailor the coating exactly to the requirement of the customer’s product. We can adjust these recipes or elements on an individual system, without needing to change the process itself. We do however have a range of systems which work well for different target markets. For example, we have a machine which has an 8 liter chamber which works well in the Hearing Aid industry coating low volumes of product, while our biggest system has a 2000L chamber for processing larger items, including rolls of filtration media.

How do you see these systems and solutions developing in the future?

Our customer base continues to grow vastly year-on-year. Our equipment diversity is also growing as we develop our technology into different customer markets. These new systems allow us to further customize our technology to meet the specific needs of our customers and their products.

However, having a strong customer base for our standard systems allows us to continue to build on our high standards of manufacturing. Ongoing continuous improvement mean reduced lead times on the manufacturing, testing and validation of these systems. Our current processes are very slick. From the point of product placement purchase to delivery, we can get machines to our customers within weeks. It’s something we are very proud of and a key element to the success of P2i in high-volume manufacturing.  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Hydrophobic coatings: spray or plasma?

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of excitement regarding hydrophobic coatings in a can. In fact, many people ask us whether they can buy a spray-can of our coating to treat their household items. I asked the scientists at P2i for some extra info on the difference between spray-can coating and the plasma tech they use:

How do hydrophobic coatings work?
Hydrophobic coatings create a layer on top of a surface to repel water and other liquids. Because of the low surface energy created by the coating, water beads into droplets and can therefor easily roll away from the surface. 

Why doesn't P2i offer a spray coating?
There are two big differences between P2i’s plasma coating and spray-can coatings: the size of the layering and the durability. When you spray a substance out of a can onto a surface you are going to create a layer which is microns thick. Now on an online video this looks very impressive, but if you could feel the product yourself, you would immediately notice a difference. A coating which is microns thick is at a size that the human body can detect through touch (with a waxy texture or feel), and at a size that is visible, causing discoloration or a white substance you can physically see.
When you look at the types of products P2i applies its technology to, it becomes clear why spray application is not an option. For example on delicate electronics, P2i’s nano-coating is so thin that it doesn't change the thermal properties of the device. This means that it is not in danger of overheating smartphones or tablets. And at a thousand times thinner than a human hair you wouldn't even know it’s there!

How is it applied?

P2i’s coating is applied in a process called “plasma enhanced vapor deposition”. The process involves three steps.
Step One: the item is placed into a chamber which is brought down to very low pressure.
Step Two: Plasma activates the surfaces of the device making them ready to bond to the monomer which is applied as a vapor
Step Three: Further plasma polymerizes the monomer forming a nano-coating layer over and within the product. The chamber is brought back up to room pressure and the item removed.

So there are a few key pieces to this puzzle which ensures a more durable performance than a spray coating. Firstly, because the product is applied in a vacuum it means the vapor can get through to every nook and cranny. In fact the coating can reach nearly anywhere air can go. This means there are no weak points to attract moisture or allow corrosion damage. Secondly, the plasma activation of the surfaces ensures that the coating is chemically bonded to the product, becoming part of its physical make-up, not simply sitting on the surface where it can wipe or rub off. Finally, the plasma polymerization means the coating is applied evenly across the surfaces and so doesn't end up with clumping or disproportionately thicker and thinner points.

Where is it used?  

P2i works with the likes of Motorola to apply the splash-proof coating on to tablets and smartphones to give greater liquid protection, while Plantronics use it on their headsets to protect against sweat and moisture damage. Because P2i works directly with brands and manufacturers to apply the technology during production, it is essential that the coating performs to high standards and is durable for everyday use.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

With the introduction of the Galaxy S4 Active and Experia ZR we ask: “How waterproof are consumer electronics?”

Smartphones are under a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations of consumers’ daily lives - meeting the environmental challenges as we seamlessly integrate between work, social and home life. 

On top of this the miniaturisation of systems based on integrated circuits and close component spacing, means devices are more susceptible to water damage such as electrochemical migration.

With all the noise around the Galaxy S4 Active and Experia ZR we reflect on a post from October 2012 where we answered the question, “How waterproof are consumer electronics?"   

- October 2012 - 

If you are a keen follower of consumer technology, then you will be aware that there has been a steady emergence over the past year of smartphones and tablets offered complete with 'waterproof' protection. But just how waterproof are these electronics?

Gadgets form an essential part of our everyday lives and there are few places left where our smartphones and tablets do not accompany us. More and more people are taking their electronics into potentially hazardous locations, for example the bathroom or even worse, saunas!

What you may not realize is that even if the device is left in a 'safe' spot, these environments still pose a risk. Water takes many forms such as vapour, mist and steam, all of which can penetrate inside devices. If there is no barrier against ingress, then the vapour or steam can reach internal components, resulting in corrosion and phone malfunctions.

This principle is more commonly understood when dealing with water in its normal form, liquid. Should a device fall into, or be splashed with liquid, without a protective barrier in place, the liquid can penetrate deep inside the device, resulting in electrochemical migration:
  • Electrochemical migration is the movement of metal ions between conductors which results in devices short circuiting and failing.
Our everyday lives have resulted in a greater need for electronics that can withstand the effects of liquids in all their forms. This in turn has seen the latest smartphones and tablets being offered with a repellent or waterproof protection.

What makes electronics waterproof?

For an electronic device to be considered waterproof, it has to be either completely sealed and ruggedized (making them bulky), or alternatively it must have barriers in place that stop water from penetrating through. It is this second option that is proving more popular now, as it allows devices to offer protection from water without the need for external casings. In this approach, manufacturers use seals known as gaskets or O-rings to act as barriers, stopping liquids from penetrating inside the device and damaging the internal components.

So are they really waterproof?

This is an interesting question as devices can claim to be waterproof if they have barriers in place to keep water out, but what about the internal components themselves? Are they also protected should liquid manage to get inside?

The answer in the majority of cases is unfortunately NO. Sealing devices off does stop water from getting in but if the barrier is compromised, for example by a device being dropped, then the case, gaskets or O-rings protecting it can become damaged and break. This could allow water to seep  towards the circuit board and internal components, resulting in device failure and loss of data.

It just takes one break in the seal for water to get inside and if this does occur, it may not be noticed as seals are hidden away on the inside. So while we think our device is waterproof, a break in the seal will not become apparent until the phone is malfunctioning and by then it could be too late.

The importance of protecting the internal components

Knowing that waterproof devices are only as good as the seals and barriers that protect them, it is important that protection is also offered to the internal components as well. And this is where liquid repellent nano-coating technology comes in.

A liquid repellent nano-coating differs from a waterproof solution in that it is not a physical barrier, meaning that liquid can still penetrate inside the device. This, however, is not the end of the device's life. The nano-coating, which is applied in vapour form, molecularly bonds to both the inside and outside of the entire device, ensuring that each and every exposed surface is treated. What this means is that, although water can get inside the device, any liquid that does come into contact with components will simply move away from the surface, rather than sticking to it, resulting in reduced corrosion, electrochemical migration and failure.

While a nano-coating is not waterproof (it is not a physical barrier), it does protect from splashes and spills as well as less obvious 'wet' environments such as saunas, bathrooms and high humidity climates.

A waterproof device has many benefits for day to day life but if the barrier fails, the device becomes vulnerable. By applying a liquid repellent nano-coating to the internal components, protection is offered to the most valuable parts of electronic devices, where all our data, numbers and images are stored. Nano-coatings are not a waterproof solution but do offer protection against everyday scenarios and environments, we and our devices find ourselves exposed to.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

P2i Nano-coating: Built-in water protection for smartphones and tablets

With 61 per cent of us using our phones in the bathroom, it is just as well that P2i has developed Dunkable™ - a hydrophobic barrier technology which protects smartphones and tablets from accidental prolonged water exposure.

The technology has come just in time as a new survey* from P2i, world leader in liquid repellent nano-coating technology, shows that more people are taking their smartphones out and about into potentially water hazardous environments. 

Over 70 per cent admitted to taking their phone in the rain, while the number of people with their phones out in pubs or caf├ęs increased 19 percentage points; from 67 per cent in 2012 to 86 per cent in 2013. Not surprisingly, 43 per cent had accidently water damaged their phone. 

P2i is already protecting tens of millions of devices with its splash-proof nano-coating for brands including Motorola and Alcatel One Touch, and is working with pioneering partners to commercialise the Dunkable™ process.

* The research for P2i was carried out by Opinion Matters between: 24 / 04 / 2013 and 03 / 05 / 2013, from a sample of 3786 mobile phone users 18+ across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the US.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Do you need a liquid repellent nano-coating for your smartphone?

If you've ever dropped your phone in water, don't feel ashamed, you're not alone. 

A recent survey by P2i (details coming out in a press release soon) showed that 43 per cent of us have suffered from accidental water damage. 

We asked people in the UK to tell us the story of how they managed this feat, and created a countdown of our ten favorite responses:

10. Was on a water ride at a theme park 
9. I accidently left it outside then it rained 
8. It dropped into a puddle as I got out of my car  
7. Opening a new bottle of cider caused it to fountain over everything on the table 
6. I knocked a jar of gherkins over it, death by vinegar! 
5. Dropped it into the kitchen sink full of washing up 
4. While I was washing my hair the mobile started ringing and I put it to my ear and water got in it. 
3. I was trying to make it up to my wife for upsetting her so I said I would wash our windows. Out came the bucket of warm water and as I bent over to get the cloth… plop out of my top pocket, my phone fell in the water. To top it off my wife was still mad with me.
2. Packing for a camping trip, I packed some eggs. Long story short; the carton got squashed and liquid egg filled my bag, including the pocket holding my phone.
1. Thinking it was a biscuit, I dunked it into a cup of tea.

Think you have an even better story to tell?
Tweet us @P2iLabs or comment on Facebook at /p2itechnology

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How "wet" is "wet"?

The recent WIRED article regarding the confusion over indicator strips turning pink in humidity has me wondering what we mean by the term “water damage”. Am I putting my phone in danger from water damage when I use it in the bathroom to play the radio while I take a shower? Was it ultimately my own sweat that killed my MP3 player when I used to tuck it into my bra at the gym? And will my e-reader fall prey to the same faults if I keep using it in the kitchen, holding it in one hand whilst stirring the pot of steaming pasta with the other?

We learnt in the recent article, Why does a wet phone die? that electricity in the presence of water can cause electrochemical migration and permanent short circuiting of devices. But surely a bit of steam or sweat is a different matter, even if it is enough to turn an indicator strip pink? Another question for the gang in the P2i Labs, I think.

Can sweat and humidity really cause damage to electronic devices?
When P2i first emerged into the electronics sector, it was on hearing aid devices. These are very expensive, small, pieces of electronics that live behind the ear. A big issue in the hearing aid industry is corrosion damage, as the close proximity to the skin allows for the transferal of sweat and adds to the humidity and amount of moisture in the air around the device. This causes the metals inside the device to have a chemical reaction and begin to oxidize leading to the gradual degradation of the materials. P2i’s nano-coating dramatically reduces this corrosion damage and in just three years P2i went from coating zero to about 60% of the hearing devices produced globally.

How do you know what’s causing the damage?
One of the tests we did with the hearing devices, which we are also doing on smartphones, is known as an ‘accelerated corrosion test’. The idea is that over a period of days, we can mimic what a device is exposed to over its lifetime. The test allows us to introduce phases of increased salt or moisture, followed by dryer times, all the while increasing and decreasing the temperature; again mimicking the phases a device will go through in the real world. The aim of the test is to see how the materials in the phone will “weather” the conditions.

The video below shows the difference between a phone treated with the splash-proof (previously known as Aridion™) nano-coating, compared to an untreated device. The phones are going through the exact same test, and are periodically removed and photographed. 

What tends to happen is that as the temperature changes, water which may have entered the phone as innocent humidity, then condenses inside the phone, forming larger droplets. Now, not only do you have the oxidation of the metals, but you’re also in danger of electrochemical migration water damage, without ever getting your phone wet. 

Should I be worried?
Believe it or not, manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to make your phones more reliable. Motorola and Alcatel have already signed up to put the splash-proof coating on a range of devices before you buy them, so you don’t need to worry. We believe that as people continue to integrate the use of the mobile phone into every aspect of their life (including taking their phones in and out of humid conditions) then this trend from manufacturers will only increase.