Smart surfaces as a solution to global challenges

Professor Jas Pal Badyal, a Fellow of the Royal Society, is widely considered a leader in the field of surface science. Here he talks about the students in his team, their inventions and tackling global challenges.

Tell us about your lab and the students

Over the years, my students have invented a whole range of different functional surfaces which have been patented. They cover anything that you can imagine that has a surface. There is always some functionality we can put onto it that adds value to it.

Can you give us some examples?

We have made surfaces that are anti-microbial so they can kill bugs and you can apply them to textiles.

We have also developed surfaces on which you can grow skin tissue. This is important for people who have a high level of burns where it is not possible to take a graft from one part of their body to another. What you can do is grow those skin cells outside of the body instead.

Another example is a surface coating that can separate oil from water so when you have oil-water pollution from oil spillages, this coated mesh can separate the water and kill bacteria in it at the same time.

These are just some of the examples that my students have invented over the years.

What do you aim to do with your inventions?

The focus of the research in our lab is two-fold. One is commercial so in the past we have had three successful start-up companies based on patented research and that has led to hundreds of millions of devices being manufactured around the world, including waterproof mobile phones and hearing aids.

The other focus is around tackling societal challenges. We have been working with local communities in developing countries all over the world and we are trying to use our knowledge gained in developing commercial-scale products to try and tackle societal challenges like anti-microbial resistance, water collection and water purification.

How did it feel to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society?

When I found out that I had been elected, it was a great honour and a surprise. I guess it made me really realise just how wonderful my students had been over the years and how all those students had helped the lab achieve this recognition.


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