Circulating bank notes, for example, could move from user to user and pocket to pocket, contamination free; boats could be protected from slime and fouling; the surfaces of medical instruments could clean themselves.
“This is such an exciting and innovative space,” acknowledges Professor Steve Howell, founder of Innova Partnerships and co-owner of Unilever’s joint venture, Penrhos Bio.
Licence partners have already expressed an interest in banknote and dental applications. “But there are so many more uses that this technology could benefit,” he adds.
The technology is set to go into consumer trials of Unilever cleaning products later this year, with the aim of making it available shortly afterwards – but not just for Unilever brands. “We recognise what this technology can represent at scale for many sectors outside Unilever’s portfolio,” says Jon. “We believe we have a responsibility to share it.”