Remember the last time you got caught in a shower and were thankful your smartphone didn’t go haywire? Well, you’ve got a university professor to thank for that who’s based right here in Durham. Jas Pal Badyal, who lectures in chemistry at Durham University and has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, has developed water-repellent nano-coatings that are used to protect millions of smartphones all across the world. And the coatings are used on a range of other devices. 75% of the world’s hearing aids employ them as do fog-collecting gadgets which are used to capture clean drinking water in the developing world. The coatings can also protect fabrics from destructive microbes and are used in industrial-strength glues.

Professor Baydal has realised the commercial potential of his research through his start-up company P2i. P2i originally developed coatings for military uniforms that protected them from chemical and biological dangers, but later moved on to other areas of work. The company’s research was recently featured in the prestigious science magazine Nature in an article entitled The Leading Edge of Impact. Professor Baydal also has his own You Tube channel, which aims to explain his often complex research in an accessible way. He has published 165 academic articles and has started up another two companies in addition to P2i.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660 after being granted a Royal Charter by Charles II and is possible the oldest scientific society in the world today. The Society aims to promote science and its benefits to the public, support outstanding scientific research, advise the government on science policy and foster international links between scientists. Being elected a Fellow of the Society is seen as a great honour. Only three other chemistry professors from Durham University hold such a position.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Baydal said, “I am honoured to have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of the wide range of novel surfaces invented in my research laboratory for societal and technological applications. These have included fog harvesting for clean drinking water in developing countries, antibacterial surfaces, and liquid repellency for the water protection of smartphones.”

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