Innovation Exchange challenge: Hydrophyllic solutions to prevent fogging of thermoplastics
The Innovation Exchange is working with a UK-based technology company to find anti-fogging solutions for thermoplastics.
Shortlisted applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch their solution to the Challenger. The final successful applicant will deliver a proof-of-concept trial or a feasibility study. The project team will receive a £25,000 grant award, to be apportioned between the Challenger and the successful applicant, as agreed on a bilateral basis.
The Innovation Exchange is supporting a fast-growing, inclusive, UK-based technology company, through the InnovateUK KTN Net Zero Catalyst programme to find anti-fogging solutions for thermoplastics. The Challenger wishes to engage innovators to find a process or coating that can be applied to its thermoplastic products that makes it hydrophilic and prevents misting or fogging. The challenge is not limited to a thermoplastic but rather any mouldable material that exhibits transparency and does not fog or lose transparency on repeated washing cycles. The solution provider will be able to access part of a £25,000 grant award to work with the Challenger on delivery of a proof-of-concept trial or feasibility study.
Hydrophobic and hydrophilic materials
Fogging occurs when water molecules land on the surface of a material and do not disperse. This causes light to refract and gives the appearance of fog on the material. It is understood that a typical hydrophilic material has high surface energy and low resistance, whereas a hydrophobic material has low surface energy and high resistance. As surface energy is increased and surface tension is decreased, the water is “pulled” flat. As the molecule is flattened, light goes straight through it, rather than via refraction, therefore fogging is reduced.
One aspect that is thought to affect the properties of a material is wetting theory. Wetting theory proposes that adhesion results from molecular contact between two materials and the surface forces that develop. For example, microscopic ridges in the material could disperse water across the surface, without breaking droplets.
Chemically bonded or other physical material adaptations make hydrophilic properties (resistant to misting, condensation, increase wetting, low contact angle less than <5°), which can be confirmed through contact angle testing.
Typical de-fogging approaches
De-fogging has been achieved on some materials using chemical or physical processes to alter the surface properties of the material. None of the currently commercially available solutions are suited to the purpose of the Challenger’s product. The use of temporary agents like soaps or detergents is common but not appropriate, and some material applications would compromise the ability for the product to perform.
The Challenger believes there is a likely to be a physical process or potentially a chemical process in another industry that could be undertaken on its material during production, to optimise it for anti-fogging. Essentially, a water molecule has a certain flexibility, but by changing the surface properties of TPE or TPO thermoplastics, the Challenger would like to explore if this could greatly reduce the contact angle of the water on the surface.
Entrants to this competition must:
- Be SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
- Be UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base
- Have not exceeded its Minimum Financial Assistance limit (or De Minimis, where relevant). Further details at the link below.
Rewards & Benefits
Shortlisted applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to The Challenger. The final winning solution provider will receive:
- A portion of a £25,000 grant award to work with the Challenger on delivery of a feasibility study or proof-of-concept trial (exact terms and funding amount to be agreed between The Challenger and the winning solution provider)
- Support from KTN, if it is required
- Invitations to attend or present at KTN events
- Investor introductions, if required
- Support if any Innovate UK or similar competitions are relevant.
For more details, and functional and technical requirements, visit the Innovation Exchange site at the link below.