ISPO innovation award 200821 January 2008
ion-mask, the revolutionary super-hydrophobic treatment from P2i Ltd, Oxford, UK, has won the functional Sportswear category in the 2008 ISPO BrandNew Awards. Originally developed to protect soldiers from chemical attack, ion-mask applies a protective layer, just nanometres thick, over the entire surface of the item being treated by means of an ionised gas or ‘plasma'.
In the case of footwear, not only are the external surfaces nano-coated but also the inside, and between and around the individual fibres, making the process particularly effective on shoes containing synthetic materials. Extensive evaluation at the three leading footwear test houses has already confirmed the treatment offers unprecedented levels of super-hydrophobicity and breathability. ‘These are exciting times for us, not only winning this prestigious award but having just signed our first high street customer for the process', says P2i Ltd's business development director, Dr Ian Robins. ‘ion-mask' will hit the high street next summer on a lightweight, waterproof footwear range from Hi-Tec, with other high profile brands soon to follow. The process is already highly regarded in industrial applications such as laboratory disposables and filtration media but this is the first time the public will get to see what all the fuss is about!' ion-mask works by applying a protective layer over the entire surface of a product which is molecularly bound to the surface and will not leach away. This transforms the surface of the product to display ultra low surface energy values down to one third that of PTFE and leading brands of water repellent treatments, displaying highly water shedding properties, whilst leaving the other properties of the product unchanged. Both the inside and outside surfaces are enhanced, minimising liquid and vapour absorption either from the outside elements or from sweat evaporating from the foot. Invisible to the naked eye, ion-mask allows the foot to truly breathe but stops water seeping through the sides of the shoe; bouncing off the surface instead like beads of mercury. Unlike conventional waterproof treatments that require additional layers to be sewn into the shoe during manufacture, which add weight and can result in poor fit of the shoe, ion-mask is applied after the shoe has been manufactured and does not compromise the fit or weight of the shoe. Furthermore, the process treats all materials within the shoe at once nano-coating synthetic materials as well as leathers. Conventional footwear requires the addition of membrane technology in conjunction with taped seams and a durable water repellent (DWR) in order to display highly water resistant properties. P2i's ion-mask enhancement process can take an ordinary shoe off the end of the manufacturing line or retail outlet shelf that would normally fail the shoe flex test and render it water resistant. The technology can be used as a novel non-tape seam sealer and displays excellent abrasion resistance. P2i Ltd were established in 2004 to commercialise super liquid-repellent treatments developed by the Ministry of Defence. Now on a commercial scale, P2i's enhancement process can be applied to a wide range of products in the performance textiles, filtration and bio-consumable markets.