WHEN THE SEALANT FINALLY PASSED ALL THE TESTS WE DID FEEL LIKE JUMPING FOR JOY
Ruth Slavid I know that both of you have been fundamentally involved first with the development of Pilkington's Activ self-cleaning glass, and then with its application to Planar glazing. Can you tell me how you first got started?
WKevin Sanderson After my chemistry degree, I did a PhD sponsored by Pilkington. I was interested in doing an industrialised PhD. After the course, I worked for the company. I went to the US for a few years and then I came back to project-manage the development of Pilkington Activ.
Tim McKittrick I studied chemistry at Liverpool University. Pilkington was the big local employer in the Liverpool area. I started in the analytical development side of things before moving into the online coatings department.
Ruth Slavid Was self-cleaning glass an idea that originated at Pilkington?
Kevin Sanderson No, the idea of self-cleaning glass had been around for many years.
The discovery had been made that titanium dioxide could give this self-cleaning functionality - our development team was driving it through to see if it was sufficiently durable and if we could protect it in an online situation. All the fundamental coating chemistry was done here; the patents were developed here. All the development of chemical processes, and the integration into the coating process was also done here.
Ruth Slavid What did you find most satisfying about the process of developing Activ?
Tim McKittrick In the team developing Activ it was great - starting with an inch-square piece of glass, we gradually took it up to the oat line in the US. We produced it in the coating plant in Germany. We took it to the marketplace, to the window manufacturers. It was a very good process to follow it through - it's a very long way from chemistry, but with a technical slant.
Ruth Slavid Where did the idea come from of applying Activ to Planar frameless glazing?
Kevin Sanderson From day one we saw Planar as a key target market for Pilkington Activ.
Ruth Slavid But the development took several years. Why was that?
Kevin Sanderson The issue with Planar is that one of the key components - the weather seal around the edges - is of a silicone. Early on we identified a potential problem for us with Activ. Silicones can leach out materials over a period of time.
They don't attach to the coating but they have an unfortunate by-product which is hydrophobic [water-repelling], whereas Activ is hydrophilic [waterloving]. We could have ended up with a 'picture frame' effect, where the glass has a dirty frame near to the edges.
Ruth Slavid So how did you set about finding a replacement for silicone?
Tim McKittrick We worked with the polymer manufacturers who supply the sealant manufacturers, describing what Pilkington's requirements were in terms of how it reacted with the glass and the glass cutting - meeting the requirements that Pilkington demanded in conjunction with the Activ coating. We also had to do a lot of testing of different products. We had a consortium of about five sealant manufacturers moving toward the same goal. We had to feed back information and keep it confidential.
Ruth Slavid Did you have a eureka moment, when it all finally came together?
Kevin Sanderson We had a eureka moment when one of the new sealants finally worked.
When we finally got a sealant that passed all the tests, you did feel like jumping for joy.
Ruth Slavid What is going to happen next for you?
Kevin Sanderson Since we launched I have been running several other projects.
Tim McKittrick I am moving on to another job for Pilkington in the US, in Toledo, Ohio, for two years. It is the home of the glass business in the US.
NAME: Kevin Sanderson BORN: 1966 EDUCATION: 1992-1995, PhD at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine EMPLOYMENT HISTORY:
2003-present, BP Global R&D principal project manager 1995-2002, Pilkington, as scientist, senior research scientist and senior project manager MOST ADMIRED DESIGNER:
Ian Simpson MOST DISLIKED DESIGN:
Centre Pompidou NAME: Tim McKittrick BORN: 1966 EDUCATION: MSc in Surface Science at Liverpool University EMPLOYMENT HISTORY:
Worked for Pilkington since 1987 MOST ADMIRED DESIGNER:
Ian Ritchie MOST DISLIKED DESIGN:
Metropolitan (Catholic) Cathedral in Liverpool