Wizz away with plasma "enhancement"

British Ministry of Defence spin off may revolutionize waterproofing.


Imagine buying sneakers and cell phones waterproofed with the same stuff.

You may be able to do that soon with the development of something called Ion Mask, a cold plasma surface enhancement technology developed by the U.K.'s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the University of Durham now being marketed by spin-off Porton Plasma Innovations (P2i.)

When applied, the technology invisibly modifies the surface of products making them super oil and water repellant. How repellant? It's three times more effective than Teflon, according to P2i.

The treatment works by decreasing the surface energy of virtually any object with an ionized gas or "plasma" mere nanometers thick, according to P2i. In the case of cell phones, PDAs, and other electronics this invisible "enhancement" not only waterproofs the outside, but the insides as well; with no damage to precision components. Water bounces off treated surfaces "like beads of mercury" with no change to the look, feel, or performance, according to the company.

"Ion Mask is extremely effective against the problem of moisture ingress as it can be applied to the most intricate electronic objects without damaging the precious circuitry," said P2i's Ian Robins. "The process is particularly well suited to high value applications such as MP3 players, which are required to perform outdoors in all weather conditions, or other small, lightweight electronic items which may be inadvertently worn in the shower or while swimming."

The technology was originally developed by the British Ministry of Defence to protect soldiers from chemical and biological weapons. P2i and its investors at Circus Capital Technology expected it to revolutionize everything from water-repellent footwear to sportswear to medical disposables to the long awaited shower phone.

P2i has shown that it's not shy about licensing the technology. Check out Whizaway.com; "The World's First Antibacterial and Hydrophobic Urine Director" designed for both disabled and active, outdoorsy women. Plasma enhancement insures that no "residual droplets of urine" are left on the device, so that it may be confidently stowed after use. Revolutionary indeed.

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