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Ion brew

Construction eyebrows may also be raised by the development of PLATO, surface coatings made using low-pressure plasma by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technical Science and Applied Material Research, Bremen, Germany.

PLATO provides a very dense, invisible, hydrophilic anti-corrosion coating for plastics, metals, glass and ceramic substrates.

It adheres strongly to surfaces compared to paints and other coatings, explains Fraunhofer's Klaus Vissing. The coatings may be as thin as 0.2 to 3m and can be made so that they are highly flexible.

If plasma - super-ionised gas - is created not at atmospheric pressure but at much lower pressures, it is possible to create a material with several different effects in one process step. It is possible, using lowpressure plasma, to add other surface functionalities besides hydrophilia.

'We build up corrosion protection in a lot of layers in one working stage. We put some gases in a big chamber and use electricity to change the properties of the coating.' Fraunhofer has also developed an 'easyto-clean' plasma coating for glass. 'It's not 'never-to-clean', ' warns Vissing, 'but repetition times for cleaning will drop.' It's also stable against water and ultraviolet radiation.

Accelerated tests indicate PLATO should remain stable for 10-plus years. Fraunhofer hopes to bring an easy-to-clean coating to market within the next 12 months, and is also developing plasma anti-fingerprint coatings to use, for instance, on stainless-steel refrigerators.

For more information visit: www. ifam. fhg. de/ frameindex. html? /2804/plato/pla-nd/ nd-beschichten/daten_e. html

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