COMPAMED.de spoke to Winfried Blau, professor for physics and ex-secretary of the European Society of Thin Films (EFDS), about targets of the complex branch, future markets in medicine and photovoltaic plants carried by camels.
COMPAMED.de: Mr. Blau, the EFDS consists mainly of German businesses. For a while now, the society has been making an effort for more European cooperation. Why?
Winfried Blau: German firms lead the field of plasma and vacuum technology as well as coating methods and the German market is too small. Our target is to expand abroad and already now the branch expands a lot into European countries.
COMPAMED.de: The EFDS is an industrial research association that distributes money for research projects for public utility. What fields are being promoted?
Blau: All projects are concerned with technologies for coating surfaces. The topics comprise preventing abrasion, decorative films, energy management or photovoltaic.
COMPAMED.de: And what about medical technology?
Blau: Regarding medical technology we promote research in the area of biocompatibility of metal components or how to coat plastics for generating antibacterial properties. Thin films could act as a barrier for cancer-causing agents. It is also possible to coat textiles which is important for treating wounds.
COMPAMED.de: However, there are not many applications of thin films to be seen when taking a close look at the market for medical products.
Blau: Well, coatings are state-of-the-art for implants today. Artificial hip or knee joint endoprosthesis are all coated.
COMPAMED.de: What are the developments for thin films in the future for medical products?
Blau: A large part of medical technology is concerned with microdiagnostics. This is a market that expands greatly at the moment. For example Biochips that are used for gene analysis - there, thin films will be crucial functional components. That is all still under development but in about ten to twenty years a large market will result in that area. Especially since the costs for these tests will not just be settled by health insurance. Many people will pay for this themeselves in terms of self medicaton.
COMPAMED.de: Thin films are therefore a candidate for developing into one of the leading future technologies?
Blau: Thin films are not becoming important for the future - they have already arrived in our lives. Even now, photovoltaics experience a yearly increase of about 30 to 50 percent. Even though, this area doe not seem to be connected to medical technology on first sight, the segments do touch: For example, when transporting blood serum in the desert with a camel the problem arises how to keep the serum cool. The solution: The camel also carries a small photovoltaic plant on its humps that produces the energy necessary for cooling.
Interview conducted by Wiebke Heiss