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'Ion-mask' tech keeps moisture off electronics

Posted: 09 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ion-mask? mobile phone? surface coat?

U.K. startup P21 Ltd has announced a technology that it claims be the latest weapon for electronics companies to prevent moisture ingress from high humidity, rain or accidental immersion in water.

The technology, dubbed "ion-mask" and already used by the military to protect soldiers from chemical attack, modifies the surface of virtually any material, applying a protective enhancement over the entire surface of the object. Water repellency is said to be three times more effective than Teflon, the industry benchmark.

The process enables the deposition of materials in layers only a few molecules thick over the whole surface of a product by means of an ionised gas plasma. This allows the surfaces of the product to be enhanced with a super oil-repellent and water-repellent treatment while leaving the other properties of the product unchanged.

Inside out protection
Targeted at mobile phones, MP3 players and flash drives, the enhanced treatment not only coats the external surfaces but also the inside without damaging precision electronics. P2i added that with the rapid growth in small electronic devices, conventional means of waterproofing such as gaskets or O-rings are no longer viable as treatment causes water to bounce off coated surfaces like beads of mercury by decreasing the surface energy of the component materials.

"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," says P2i's business development director, 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."

According to Robins, the technology has been demonstrated to manufacturers in the medical, automotive, aerospace, sports accessories and electronics sectors and are now evaluating its potential.

- John Walko
EE Times




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