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University scientists help Pilkington Glass see clear way forward

Manufacturing giant Pilkington Glass has called on Manchester Metropolitan University’s material scientists as it seeks to enhance its range of energy-efficient glazing products.

Professor Peter Kelly’s surface engineering group is working with Pilkington to develop their special energy-saving glass coatings, which are used to help reduce heat loss from buildings and cars. Pilkington are also using MMU’s state-of-the-art analytical facilities to carry out detailed studies of coatings and manufacturing processes using a revolutionary technique called ‘magnetron sputtering’.

Dr Janet O’Brien-O’Reilly, a senior technologist at Pilkington Technology Centre, said their link up with MMU – and the University of Liverpool – enabled them to conduct in-depth research away from industrial pressures. “Market conditions are fierce and the challenge facing manufacturers is to make their products better and more cheaply,” she said. “At Pilkington we are always looking to stay one step ahead of our competitors. We apply the knowledge gained from MMU in existing and new products to achieve the best functional and durable products that we can. It also gives us the opportunity to keep abreast of new equipment which we don’t have.”

Among the projects currently being carried out at MMU, the research team is looking at improving coating durability. Professor Kelly, a world expert in the field, said that MMU’s specialist laboratory was ideally suited for the research and development of thin film – energy-saving – coatings. “The analysis that we provide is directly fed back to Pilkington who use it to either modify their production processes or improve their products,” he explained. “It’s a testimony to the expertise we have at the University that a company of Pilkington’s international standing values our input. Another spin-off is that our students get to see an example of university-industry collaboration at first hand.”

Phil Smith | alfa
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