Turning an Idea into a 'Whole Product'

In the first issue of Zygote Quarterly, Dr. Steven Vogel described the many barriers standing between a great idea and commercial success.  Sometimes, inventions that work on the lab bench do not scale as expected: adequate yields and quality may be difficult to achieve or higher volumes do not sufficiently reduce costs.  In other cases, the invention may only be part of the final solution, requiring other components or attributes before the full benefits can be achieved.

The Lotus Effect promised a wide range of self-cleaning surfaces.  The challenge has been making these surfaces durable - the lotus leaf has the advantage of being able to continuously repair its surface .  The BBC Science & Environment post on Stain-shedding coating gets tough describes research on developing a durable self-cleaning coating for fabrics.  Layers are built up by repeatedly dipping the fabric in a solution of silica nanoparticles. The particles within layers and the layers themselves are then interlinked by exposing the fabric to ultraviolet light.

The process uses self-assembly to create a durable film with a highly organized structure that provides super-hydrophobic properties.  Self-assembly is often seen in nature associated with low-energy, water-based chemistry.  Additional clippings related to self-assembly can be found using this search string.

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