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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

September 2014 John Simpson

Meeting Date: 
September 27, 2014

Our September 2014 speaker was John Simpson, a retired scientist from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. John has 27 patents issued and another 25 pending!! Among other topics he told us about Superhydrophobics.

Dr. John Simpson is a University of Tennessee Research Professor and recently retired Senior Research Scientist at Oak Ridge National Lab in Oak Ridge Tennessee. John worked at ORNL for 13 years on a variety of programs related to superhydrophobic and nano-structured materials. Over the past six years, Dr. Simpson was awarded "2013 Battelle Distinguished Invertor Award," "2012 UT-Battelle’s Excellence in Technology Transfer Award," "2008 R&D100 Award Winner" (given to the 100 most technologically significant products and advancements for each year) and Oak Ridge National Lab’s "2008 Inventor of the Year."

John’s presentation focused on his development of superhydrophobic materials, which are materials that strongly repel water from their surface. As in all research, there were several iterations and improvements over time before attaining the desired results. Over the years his research lead him to a naturally abundant; i.e. inexpensive, diatomaceous earth material that had the physical properties he wanted and was superhydrophilic; i.e. strongly attracted or wetted by water. He then ‘flipped’ their chemistry so they behaved oppositely, with the super water repelling properties he desired.

The initial market interest for the new material is as an additive to paints that do not get wet. The painted surfaces will be non-staining, self cleaning, and offer protection from the elements through greatly improved deterioration and corrosion protection for the materials they are applied to. Many other applications are being pursued such as coatings for boat hulls and skis.

The research John was involved with at ORNL was licensed through technology transfer to a company that is sub-licensing to other companies for a wide variety of applications. John expected that one hundred companies will use this technology within the next year alone, and many more in the future.

Even after his stint at ORNL, John is still involved with superhydrophobic materials and related applications. He is teaching, which he said that he enjoys the most. John’s enthusiasm was obvious during his presentation.