Every year TATA Group holds an international competition to highlight and reward the excellent innovations within the groups research and development activity. Usually 2000-3000 projects apply with around 80 progressing to the final. A TATA Steel UK engineering doctorate student, Alex Harold, had her project ‘Superhydrophobic Coatings From Bacterial Proteins’ entered. This is a competition to showcase cutting edge research within the TATA group, with Swansea University projects leading the way on innovation. She was shortlisted and invited to present at the European group final, where her project was up against projects from TATA Steel Europe, Jaguar Landrover and TATA Global Beverages.
Alex’s project won her category, given a special commendation and was entered straight into the international final, where she will present in the competition final in Mumbai in April 2017.
Alex explained the development behind the project "We wanted to try a coating that wasn't just inspired by nature but utilised biological components to provide a solution to an industrial problem. The surface membrane of a common soil bacteria (Streptomyces sp.) is not only hydrophobic but it protects the organism from desiccation and therefore the movement of water across the membrane. We extracted this membrane and monomerised it to create a protein solution that would self-assemble along hydrophobic / hydrophilic interfaces. Using this property, we were able to coat steel products and produce a robust protein coating that was less than 10nm thick, able to withstand boiling and freezing and could reduce the potential of corrosion"
9 March 2017